12 arrested in ‘revenge porn’ crackdown after sharing nude photos on Telegram
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12 arrested in ‘revenge porn’ crackdown after sharing nude photos on Telegram

Police believe suspects shared content with thousands of users without knowledge or consent of the women

Illustrative: The messaging app Telegram is displayed on a smartphone (AP Photo)
Illustrative: The messaging app Telegram is displayed on a smartphone (AP Photo)

Police on Wednesday arrested a dozen men suspected of distributing nude photos and videos of women on a popular Telegram channel without their knowledge or consent.

The 12 suspects, aged 17-30, were arrested at their homes early Wednesday morning following a months-long undercover investigation by the Lahav 433’s cyber crimes unit, according to a police statement.

Lahav investigators searched the suspects’ homes, confiscating computers and phones as part of the investigation.

Later on Wednesday, the Tel Aviv District Court remanded all 12 suspects into police custody until the end of the legal proceedings.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the suspects were active on several Telegram channels that distributed nude photos and videos of Israeli women. One of the channels, “Blue and White made,” had over 16,000 members, and went the extra step to find and then share the identity of the women. It was unclear how they obtained the photos and videos.

According to reports, police began investigating the Telegram channels in June, after a Channel 12 news show exposed how an increasing number of teenage girls in Israel were finding personal photos and videos of themselves on messaging apps.

The Telegram app allows users to communicate anonymously, so Lahav 433 detectives joined the groups and spent months combing through messages for clues to help them identify the main culprits.

In 2014, Israel became the first country to ban the distribution of so-called revenge porn in a bid to prevent the distribution of pornographic content over the internet.

The law, which targets sexually explicit media posted without the depicted person’s knowledge or consent, also covers content shared on social media. It stipulates that those found guilty of posting such content will be prosecuted as sex offenders, and that the offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Revenge porn victim Yuval Gold speaks to Channel 13 news on November 6, 2019. (screen capture: Channel 13)

After the arrests were made, a woman whose intimate photos were repeatedly circulated on the messaging app praised police for the investigation, but told media outlets that more must be done to combat the phenomenon.

“It’s good to know that something is being done after all this time,” Yuval Gold was quoted as saying. “I hope [the suspects] get prosecuted to the fullest extent, both because they deserve it and because deterrence is important.”

“It’s [important] even for the minors among them,” she added, “because the 17-year-old suspect and all the others who haven’t gotten caught yet are ruled by the same mantra that justifies their actions: she’s a whore.”

Gold went on to encourage women who discover their intimate content being shared online not to feel ashamed by the situation.

“Don’t break. Understand that we are not the ones to blame. People will try to blame you by asking: ‘why did you take those pictures?’ or ‘why are you dressed like that?’ but nobody stops to ask why are all these people sharing it?”

“The fact that we get blamed for this is so wrong,” Gold added.

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