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ITeam Report: Shattered Profiles

November 13, 2012 5:54:39 AM PST
There is now a new online scheme that is targeting private posts with public humiliation.

The crude and rude comments about people that were once relegated to the stalls and walls of restrooms are now being electronically scrawled on social networks.

It is bullying on steroids, and anyone can become a victim of shattered profiles, your pictures stolen, reposted with false and degrading comments. Most of what the ITeam found can't even be shown on television.

"It was disgusting," said parent Jackie Bonavia. "One was from Cal City, one was from Sauk Village, it was all our area. It makes me sick."

The names of these websites are nauseating enough, but when Bonavia saw the pictures pop up in her Facebook feed, it was even worse.

Someone was copying actual photos of girls and women from the city and suburbs, and posting then with degrading descriptions such as she messed around, got pregnant, partied, did crack and acid, lines of cocaine and far worse than that.

"I couldn't believe that they have girls on there, exploiting them the way that they were," Bonavia said. "Putting names, what they do, where they hang out, and why they're classified as this, it's just, it appalled me."

The most despicable posts are of real photos, names and local cities, altered descriptions shared among the victims' real circle of friends.

Bonavia brought her concerns to Facebook and tried to get the page to stop, but the anonymous abusers continued unchecked.

And this type of online shame is expanding, some of these new sites have amassed thousands of followers.

Social psychology expert Dr. Reginald Richardson says this new trend of humiliation sites can be very dangerous and could even potentially lead to suicide for some vulnerable teens.

"It's vile, it's degrading," he said. "I think it gives an opportunity for bullying to be to the next level. I almost don't have the words to describe the visceral reaction as a parent.

"To see these kids being described in these ways, I think it's dangerous, I think it's shameful, and again I don't see how the social networking sites can allow that kind of behavior to occur."

The victims of this particular site we contacted for this story did not want to share their stories on camera, but parents who have been through similar situations say when you're targeted and shamed anonymously the results can be painful.

Cyberbullies targeted Peter LaBore's son by trying to humiliate him by impersonating him with a fake Facebook page set up in his name, but it didn't stop there.

"It's devastating, frankly, and as a parent you don't know what to do," LaBore said.

The cyberbullying turned into vandalism when LaBore says kids damaged his house and wrote slurs on his car.

"It could happen to anybody," Labore said. "They sit behind a display, anonymous, very cowardly and do this."

As for this new trend of anonymous shame, Labore says parents and social networks need to better police the site content.

"It's truly egregious, especially this new wave of using their photos and their name, full names," he said. "These are minors and putting this out there. It's terrible, it's illegal, and something should be done about it."

Facebook executives say they investigate complaints and will take down pages that violate standards.

Before it gets to that point, here are some ITeam tips for parents to fight back:

  • Keep the computer your child uses in a visible place in the home and don't let them take smartphones to bed.
  • Make sure your privacy settings on social networks are restricted - so you're not unknowingly sharing photos with strangers.
  • And remember, anything posted online lives forever and could cause problems in the future.

Tips for parents:

Sample family social media agreement: http://www.truecare.com/sites/default/files/FamilySocialMediaAgreement.pdf

Prevent Cyberbullying and Internet Harassment: http://www.cyberbully411.org/

IL Attorney General tips: http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/cyberbullying/index.html

Facebook provided these policies:

Facebook Community Standards

Facebook Statement of Rights & Responsibilities

Bullying Prevention information in the Facebook Safety Center


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