TECH
10/23/2012 04:24 pm ET

'Parasite' Porn Websites Harvest, Repost 88 Percent Of Teens' Sexy Photos: Study

As if common sense weren't enough, there's a new reason why teens might want to think twice before posting sexually suggestive photos and videos of themselves to the Internet.

A study by the Internet Watch Foundation found that 88 percent of teens' online photos and videos are stolen, and sometimes reposted to what TechCrunch called "a cottage industry of 'parasite websites' that exist for the sole purpose of harvesting candid teenage photos."

According to the Guardian, over a four-week period, more than 12,000 images and videos were analyzed and logged in the study. More than 10,000 of these were then mined and reposted to porn sites. In some cases media were taken from discreet websites, including social networks. In other cases, they were taken from stolen mobile phones.

Sometimes, the study found, images that appeared on parasite porn sites were appended to people's names, so that they would come up in search results for individuals. Although some groups, such as the UK Safer Internet Centre, monitor the Web for sexually explicit photos of minors, if there isn't "watertight proof" that the person who posted the image is underage, the organization is all but powerless to remove it.

Online communities such as Reddit and 4chan rely on different kinds of self regulation to keep sexually explicit or suggestive content depicting minors out of its forums. Reddit banned content of this kind following media attention highlighting sub-forums created for the sole purpose of proliferating such suggestive images.

4chan draws a hard line against child pornography, reporting users who post it to the FBI and permanently banning them, but there have been several instances of people acquiring such material through its boards.

"Young people have to [realize] that once they take a digital image, once it is uploaded, it essentially becomes public property and is virtually impossible to remove," Sarah Smith, a technical researcher at IWF, told the Guardian.

The IWF study comes on the heels of another report whose details establish sexting as a new norm among teenagers. However, the foundation's study did not examine private messages between smartphones, those exchanged over email or those behind the firewall of protected social networks, according to TechCrunch.

The IWF provided testimony from teens whose lives that had been adversely affected by unwise or unwitting sharing, but the case of Amanda Todd recently put a tragic face to the issue.

Todd, a Canadian teen, committed suicide following years of bullying after she shared topless photos of herself with a stranger over the Internet.

Anonymous, 4chan's activist community, later tracked down and exposed the man who bullied Todd.

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