An international online pornography ring has been targeting thousands of Australian high school-aged girls by publishing their nude images on a dedicated website without their consent. The culprits? Their male peers.
The site, which began operating in December last year, contains over 2,000 images sourced from more than 70 different Australian high schools. The images, which are called "wins" by the site's users, are sorted by high school location.
Most of the victims are from New South Wales, with the site targeting 28 high schools in the state—including some of its most prestigious and elite private institutions like Wenona School. The site also contains images from 18 schools in Queensland, 15 in Victoria, five in the ACT, two in South Australia, and two in Tasmania.
Users of the site—primarily young high school-aged men—are able to upload the personal images and swap them with other users. They're also able to actively seek out images that originate from certain high schools. The users have compiled lists of "wanted" images from specific school girls, including the full name and contact details of potential victims.
Many of the images that appear on the site seem to have been obtained from Snapchat, and uploaded without the sender's consent or knowledge.
If girls think their private images may have been compromised, they will have a hard time finding out for sure. In order to protect data on the site, its users are told to replace some of the letters in their victims' names with numbers and symbols so they are not easily searchable.
Some victims who have been able to identify themselves have posted on the site, requesting that its users remove their images. These requests are usually mocked or ignored.
Speaking to VICE this morning, an Australian Federal Police spokesperson said police were currently working with domestic and international law enforcement partners, as well as relevant government agencies, to investigate the site and determine the best course of action. Given the website's server is located overseas, it's difficult for the AFP to simply shut it down.
"A number of these images allegedly depict non-consenting and/or underage women," the spokesperson said. "It is important to note that creating, accessing or distributing child pornography is a serious offence, even if you are a child yourself. Child pornography offences have a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment."
The AFP also said that questions about the removal of offensive and illegal online material should be directed to the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner.
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