Porn gone wild
Blackmailers keep police busy with online sex photos
SHUTTING down porn sites has become a regular task for the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) since blackmailers have taken to publishing nude, sexually explicit photographs of multiple Jamaican women on the Internet.
Deputy Superintendent Dwight Daley of OCID told the Jamaica Observer that since the start of the year, police have written to Internet host sites such as Google an average of twice each month requesting the removal of these sites, and have responded to multiple complaints from Jamaican women whose nude pictures have been posted without their permission on the websites.
"Since the start of the year, we have had reports from at least 25 women whose pictures have been published on these sites. On average that works out to be about two sites monthly that we have written to have shut down," said DSP Daley.
The matter is of growing concern to the police as blackmailers are increasingly targeting these women, having acquired embarrassing photographs by hacking into personal e-mail and social media accounts.
The most frequent cases, however, result from intimate relationships that have gone sour, Daley explained.
"There are cases where persons will hack into the girls' e-mail accounts and find their pictures, and then there are others where the photos are taken by the girls' boyfriends or their girlfriends," explained Daley.
"But you know how those things go; they are friends for two years and after that when the relationship goes sour, they post them (pictures) to get back at the persons. Many of the cases are like that," he said.
Daley explained that the blackmailers usually call their victims or e-mail them copies of the nude photos as proof, then demand money from them to prevent publication. Some victims, overcome with fear, guilt and shame, have opted to pay the blackmailers -- an option which Daley warned victims not to take.
He offered the assurance that the police are well equipped and trained to deal with the offenders. He also pointed out that the monies paid over just go back into the criminal underworld to finance more heinous crimes.
Just last month, in the most recent incident, investigators were forced to shut down a blog, dubbed Jamaicangirlsexposed, which featured photos of hundreds of Jamaican women, many of them from tertiary institutions, posing in compromising positions. Daley said the blog was among the biggest his office has dealt with, and that investigators are still following up on several statements offered by victims.
The site created a stir locally, with the graphic photographs showing, in some cases, only the girls' faces, while others depicted them sprawled in beds in the buff, or performing sexual acts. The men's faces were never shown.
Young Jamaican singer Denyque was among the women whose photos appeared on the sexually explicit blog. In a press release, she told her fans that the pictures had been taken while she was in a committed relationship, and that she was shocked when they were published.
"The photographs were taken sometime in 2009 and were never sent or otherwise distributed to anyone. They have remained my private property. Let me be clear that both myself and my partner at the time remain equally puzzled and disappointed at the surfacing of these photographs," read the release.
She said her manager contacted the operators of the blog, who later called on a private number and demanded that she pay them a sum of $50,000 to remove the pictures. She declined.
The artiste said she issued the statement to take a stand not only for herself, but for the other women depicted on the blog.
"What about the other ladies on the blog? How will they begin to reassemble their lives after these hackers and scammers wreak havoc? What happens when this wretched person decides that $50,000 is no longer enough money?" she asked.
Another of the girls depicted on the blog, a student of the University of the West Indies, told the Sunday Jamaica Observer that she was horrified when, prompted by friends telling her that her photo was on Jamaicangirlsexposed, she visited the site and stumbled upon the nude picture of herself that was taken about three years ago. She had forgotten about the picture after her computer hard drive crashed, she said. However, the photo had still been in external storage linked to her e-mail account.
"The first thing that came to mind was 'Oh my God, I am going into the media and this thing is on the Internet, it could really affect how my future employees see me," said the student.
"But I have a really good support system, a really good group of friends around me. Plus, the feedback that I was getting was nothing like that, so after a while I stopped worrying about it," she said. The student said she has since deleted all such compromising photos and information from her e-mail account, and would never upload anymore pictures of that sort.
Her resolution sits well with Daley, who suggested a more sound precaution.
"Do not to take those pictures any at all. Just desist from it," he warned. "And do not keep anything on your phone or your computer that you know can one day come back to haunt you.
"Always treat those things as something that will come back to haunt you for the rest of your life. They are something that you would not want your children to see, so treat it as if it will come out one day. And to prevent that, you just don't take them to begin with," he insisted.
If persons are not prepared to curb the temptation of taking nude, sexually explicit photographs, Daley suggested the following measures to keep them from appearing on porn sites:
* ensure that you change e-mail passwords regularly;
* ensure that e-mail passwords contain multiple characters and thus are less easily broken; and
* do not share your e-mail addresses/passwords with anyone, not even your close friends.
Bottom line, Daley said, "Do not trust computers and cellphones. Everything that goes into a computer can come back to haunt you one day."
Daley, however, explained that tracking down the criminals, such as the creators of the latest blog, is made a bigger challenge when victims are too afraid and ashamed to make statements to the police. Also adding to the challenge, he said, is that OCID investigators often have to work with outside counterparts to nab perpetrators. These outside agencies are often slow in their response and aid, he said.