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Woman horrified after old photo appears on disturbing 'girls in school uniform' page

Child safety expert Jim Gamble told the BBC he thought the Facebook page “warrants police attention”

Child safety expert Jim Gamble said he thought the page “warrants police attention”

Christopher Leebody

A Co Down woman has spoken out about how she is now “second guessing” every photo online, after images she posted on her personal Facebook account were shared without her permission.

The Facebook group called “The Best Schoolgirls” – which has since been removed by Meta – had shared images of girls from local schools without their permission and described the page as “sharing photos of pretty girls in school uniforms... genuine pictures only please”.

Sophia Armstrong was one of those whose images of her when she was 18 years old were shared on the page.

She told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster she made the “horrific” discovery after a friend had alerted her to one of her school images being shared on the page, describing how people commenting under the photo was “disgusting” and made her feel “exposed for something you hadn’t done”.

“I felt horrific, the fact that someone had found a photograph of me in my school uniform and had made it into a sexually gratifying thing it was pretty disgusting,” she explained.

“It was literally photos from my leavers day, there was nothing sexual about it.”

Ms Armstrong explained she contacted the PSNI and was told there was “nothing criminally wrong” with the page as the images were in the public domain.

A PSNI spokesperson said they had received three reports in relation to the page and confirmed no criminal offence had occurred but the nature of the page remains under investigation.

“It is the equivalent of someone reposting something on Facebook unfortunately,” Ms Armstrong added.

“I was told I should change the privacy settings on my account. Telling a victim to change their account in order to stop this happening in the future to me doesn’t seem 100% okay.

“I shouldn’t be the one having to change my life in order to stop accounts like this being created.

“I understand no crime has been committed, but whenever there is a majority of people saying they are really uncomfortable... specifically minors.

“There has to be something that can be done. It is really scary to think how much people can get away with before they have actually committed a crime.

“I am second guessing every photo I put up. Any photo I am posting now I say is this okay to post. I shouldn’t have to do that. It is my account they are my images.”

In a statement, Meta confirmed the page has been removed and said they act to remove groups used for sharing images like this.

A spokesperson said: “We remove Facebook profiles, pages and groups that are dedicated to sharing otherwise innocent images of children with captions, hashtags or comments that contain inappropriate signs of affection or commentary. We have removed this Facebook group for violating our policies.”

Child safety expert Jim Gamble told the BBC he thought the page “warrants police attention”.

“Context is key in the way these images are being used. The context of the sites they are being consolidated on would give me reasonable grounds to be concerned about the individual who is harvesting them,” he said.

“When you bring them together [images] and host them in the way that this is being done, I think it is reasonable to infer there may be a sexual connotation with that - now there may not be - but why host photographs of schoolgirls in that way?

“I do think a site like this warrants police attention Police should be, and I am sure they are, trying to establish the motivation with regard to this person.

“For young people, copywrite your images, it takes two minutes.

“People should be able to post their images on social media without them being harvested and placed in the context of being sexualised.”

In a statement the PSNI told the BBC: “We understood the stress young people and their parents and guardians must feel.

“The photos investigated by the police to date are already open to the public and showed no nudity and therefore no criminal offence was found.

“However, the nature of this page is still under investigation and will remain open.”

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