Social media have made it easy to post and share photos and videos but those who belatedly realize their error or are embarrassed by the sensitive nature of the material are having a hard time taking them down.
For some, especially young girls, it is a lifetime battle removing their naked photos and sex videos from the internet. This is according to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report written by Neil Jayson Servallos. This report is the second of a four-part series on online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines. The first part of the series was on Filipino mothers selling their children for online sexual abuse.
More than 200 underage Filipino girls have sought the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) in taking down their images from the internet, the second report titled “Young girls face a lifetime battle removing their naked photos, sex videos from the internet” said. These include non-consensual photos and video or of them naked or having sex with their boyfriend.
One such victim was Grace (name withheld to protect her privacy) who, when she was 16, dated a senior in her school. He was 18. He convinced her to send him naked photos of her. He asked that she include her face in the photos. She obliged. They also took videos of their sexual acts.
Those photos and videos eventually got passed on, downloaded and shared. “I was still a minor back then, and I was heavily manipulated and groomed into sending those materials. That’s why I was in fear of asking for help (until later),” she told the PCIJ.
Everything changed for Grace after that. Her grades started to fall, classmates and teachers treated her suspiciously and her relationship with her family became strained. It was not known what happened to the boyfriend or why he released the photos and video although it’s usually to take revenge.
It took time but Grace and her friends eventually succeeded in getting Facebook, Twitter, Google Drive and other websites to take down the materials, the report said. Still, she lived in constant fear that the images and videos were still out there and might be uploaded again. “I would like to think that they’re not online anymore, but deep down I know they are,” she said. “These materials, no matter how hard you try to take them down, will always be re-uploaded, because that’s just how it works nowadays.”
Republic Act 9995, or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, punishes the reproduction, sale, and distribution of such materials. The penalty is imprisonment from three years to seven years, and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000. But going after the culprits is difficult as they are usually anonymous on the internet.
The pandemic has also increased the possibility of violations as people tend to spend more time on the internet.
Young people should know that what they post online can have repercussions and removing their photos or videos could take them a lifetime.