An Image Site Is Victimizing Countless Women and Little Can Be Done
Explicit photos are posted without consent, often with location and name.
Photo via Pexels
An international anonymous photo-sharing site where people post explicit photos without consent is playing host to the victimization of countless women. In the Canadian section of Anon-IB alone, there are currently over a hundred threads—often organized by region, city, or calling out for nudes of a specific woman to be posted publicly.
"Hamilton hoes," "Nanaimo Thread!," and "Markham wins" are some titles of Canadian threads. (Language used on the site equates the word "win" with sexually explicit photos of women.)
Many major Canadian cities are represented on the site, and some threads even focus on women from specific schools.
While it's a crime to share an "intimate image" of a person without their consent in Canada, sites that host this kind of activity don't necessarily fall under this.
"[In terms of organizing content], is it criminal? No. Is it illegal? No," Toronto-based lawyer Jordan Donich, of Donich Law, told VICE. "It's a newer version of an older problem—sites like these have been around for a long time."
Anon-IB is not a new site; its current domain was registered to a "private person" in 2015 and ends in an ".ru." However, the site was initially up several years before 2015, going offline briefly in 2014.
"The people who organize these communities set up hubs in other jurisdictions, so Canadian law isn't even applicable or enforceable a lot of times," Donich said. Charges against those posting women's images without consent on the site are also unlikely because posts are anonymous.
The way the community on Anon-IB operates is reminiscent of how child pornography is distributed: Members of an online community share or trade images with one another. With Anon-IB, though, it's not on the dark web as child porn rings often are, but rather is just a regular website anyone with basic internet literacy could maneuver.
"Anyone have any of paige?... Trades are possible. Have a wide selection of southern ontario," a recent post on the site with a photo of a woman appearing to have been taken from a social media profile reads.
"Any pics of girls who went to Vaughan Secondary School?" a post on the site from June reads.
An Ontario woman named Roxanne told The Canadian Press that she found explicit photos of herself on the site in 2013 and has taken to notifying other women victimized on Anon-IB.
She initially filled out a form requesting her photos were taken down on the site, which she didn't receive a response to. She notified York Regional Police a month after finding her photos on the site; no charges have been laid to date. But after Anon-IB reemerged following an offline period in 2014, her photos weren't there anymore.
Several other authorities in Canada are aware of Anon-IB via complaints or investigations, including RCMP in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and police in Peterborough, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario, CP reports.
"My coping mechanism was to go back on the website, find as many girls as I could, tip them off and go to bed," Roxanne said.
"Part of me felt like a little bit of a creep doing this… But if I can track them down this easily, somebody with a worse motive can too."
Because of how users on Anon-IB organize threads based on location or school and post women's real names, finding them on social media is possible. Though the site's rules don't allow full names to be posted, some users do it anyway or try to circumvent this by saying what the woman's last name rhymes with.
Threads on the site can be very specific, such as one that is seeking photos of topless women at the BC-based music festival Shambhala or a nude beach in Vancouver, the latter of which has a no-photo policy.
"Even if you are normally iffy about posting, remember, girls nude outdoors at festivals and beaches have no expectation of privacy," a post from July 29 reads. "Dump those pics, it's good karma to share bruddah!"
There's even a thread on the site looking for photos from CanadaCreep before its shutdown.
"I hate to say it, but the only solution at this point in time is to not have the material created to begin with," Donich said in regards to private photos being shared.
"I know that's probably not what people want to hear… But be prepared you're exposing yourself to these risks."
As for "voyeuristic" images, Donich said images like these have to be proven to be used for a sexual purpose in order to fall under the law.
Women who've had photos of themselves non-consensually posted on the site should report incidents to police even though charges are unlikely.
"As the world is becoming less private through the use of essentially the smartphone, these offenses are continuing to rise," Donich said. "This is not going to go away."