Fake Instagram profiles linking to intimate subscription service websites

eSafety has received a number of reports where someone’s (non-intimate) images from their Instagram account are stolen and then used on an impersonation Instagram account. This impersonation account then uses a link on the profile to redirect traffic to explicit content on what looks like a subscription service, which is impersonating the person and claiming to have intimate content of them behind a paywall, however, no intimate content of the person actually exists.

If the account involves intimate images purporting to be the person, even if the explicit content is not actually the victim of the impersonation, because it claims to be of that person, we can take action under our image-based abuse scheme to get content removed. 

If imposter accounts are set up using someone’s non-intimate images, it is unlikely that our image-based abuse scheme will apply. Victims of this should make a complaint to Instagram straight away to get the impersonation account removed. They can also come to eSafety for help. 

Selling and sharing of intimate content 

One experience we hear of are people who have set up an account on a subscription service to monetise their intimate images – which became increasingly popular last year as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. 

These subscription services allow ‘intimate content creators’ to offer adult content - like nude images or sex videos - for a fee, which those creators then make money from. But then those images or videos – the ones intended to be paid for - are shared much more widely via screenshots or screen recordings. They may end up on (free) pornography websites and in doing so have a much wider audience than the creator originally ever intended.

Depending on the circumstances, eSafety may be unable to take removal action on this scenario, however, misusing another person’s image or identity in this way is likely to violate the relevant platform’s terms of service. We recommend reporting it to the platform. 

Restricting what you share and who you share it with really is the best way to ensure your private information and images are not misused. At eSafety, we can support those who have been harmed by this type of conduct. We can assess any report made to us and help the person understand their options.

“Identity theft scams or imposter accounts are unfortunately becoming all too common, and we have received a number of reports from people who have had their non-intimate images ‘harvested’ on social media sites like Instagram to create imposter accounts which then redirect traffic to accounts featuring explicit content,” said Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant.

“Even though the explicit content may not be the person, if it is purporting to be that person, it may constitute image-based abuse and victims can report to eSafety to have this content removed, and we have an 85 per cent success rate. Victims can also report to the Australian Cyber Security Centre as this may constitute a crime. 

“Misusing another person’s image or identity in this way is also likely to violate the relevant platform’s terms of service and we also recommend reporting it to the platform.

“It’s a sad fact of today’s connected world that once you share a message, photo or video online you may not be able to control where it goes or how long it stays online.

“When it comes to the use of social media, we advise restricting the amount of personal information you share and to only connect with people you know. 

“While it might feel a bit like you’re being a bit anti-social on social media, restricting what you share and who you share it with really is the best way to ensure your private information and images are not misused.”

People can send a report to eSafety.

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