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Police probe posting of photos of nude Woodstock women

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Woodstock police are investigating the posting of photos of dozens of naked Woodstock women on a gaming app by men to share with other men.

Police confirmed Monday they've received complaints from several Woodstock women who say their naked photos were posted without their consent on the gaming app Discord.

A woman who used to live in Woodstock said she learned last week that a nude photo of her and nude photos of several other Woodstock women were posted on the app.

The woman, who asked not be identified, said she contacted Discord and the photos were quickly removed.

The woman said she learned her photo was posted on the app from a friend who sent her a private message on Facebook.

“It said that she had been made aware that there was a thread on an app called Discord, where guys from Woodstock were uploading naked photos of women to share with others,” she said in an email. “In this thread, the guys were asking for photos of specific women.”

The woman, who lived in Woodstock five years ago, said many of the women who are on the list live in Woodstock.

The friend who sent her the information apparently infiltrated the app by creating a profile where she impersonated a man, the woman said.

 “She was able to create a list of over 40 women from the Woodstock area whose pictures were posted on this thread,” the unnamed woman said. “She contacted each woman individually and let them know what had been done.”

Discord is a chat service popular in the gaming community, but can be used for more than just playing games. 

The San Francisco company sent a statement after being asked in an email for comment. The company didn't confirm intimate photos of the women were posted but did indicate it was aware of an "alleged incident" in Ontario.

"Sharing of non-consensual pornography is clearly prohibited in our terms of service and community guidelines. Though we do not read people’s private messages, we do investigate and take immediate action against any reported terms of service violation by a server or user. Non-consensual pornography warrants an instant shut down on the servers whenever we identify it, as well as a permanent ban on the users."

Posting intimate images of another person on the internet without their consent is illegal in Canada.

“It takes a while to investigate cases (like this),” Woodstock police Staff Sgt. Neil Butler said Monday. “It’s a more complicated case because the photos have already been taken down.”

Another challenge for investigators is getting information from an app operating in another country, he said.

“It’s difficult to contact these people and get the information you need.”

The case is a reminder that people need to be careful about what they share with others and their actions online, Butler said.

“My advice is  . . .  don’t send anything that you wouldn’t want your mother to see,” he said. “It is a criminal offence to share these images. And if the person is of a certain age, it could constitute children pornography offences, which if convicted will follow you for the rest of your life.”

Giselle Lutfallah, manager of the Oxford County Family Violence Counselling Program, said she has never seen a case of this magnitude.

“A woman should have the right to share photos with a person she’s intimate with and assume it will not be shared further,” she said.

Lutfallah said she has seen men post intimate images of a woman or send them to her family and friends to humiliate or "shame" her or to force her to get back together with them.

There's a pervasive view in society that it is the woman’s fault the images have been shared, she said.

 “This is really dangerous,” Lutfallah said. “We all have an obligation to oppose, both on an individual, community and societal level, the sharing of intimate images without the implicit consent of the individual.

“The company has an obligation for community safety and to not be a tool that people use as a tactic of revenge or exploitation.”

HRivers@postmedia.com