US Marine nude photo sharing scandal..bad and getting worse as massive privacy breach

March 18, 2017 |

The ongoing scandal involving the display of intimate (generally nude) photographs of female Marines by their fellow, male, marines on a secret Facebook page highlights the dangers of social media for breaching the privacy of others but also in demeaning and degrading women.

A Facebook Group, Marines United, would post photos of female marines, taken by the women themselves or their partners, without their consent.  So far 1,200 screen names have been identified, of whom 725 are active marines while 150 are in the Marine reserve.  The photographs were stored in Google Drive folders which were linked to the Facebook page.  Worse than that that, if possible, sometimes the women’s names and where they were stationed at the time.

It is somewhat surprising that the chosen platform was Facebook.  Often the platform of choice is located in a lawless part of the world, cyber law wise at least, such as Russia, China and many of the Stans in Central Asia.

The story has received wide coverage including in the Washington Post and New York Times. It is problem not confined to the USA.  Australia has had a similar scandal involving a group of Australian officers describing themselves as the Jedi Council who emailed pictures of women to each other.  The difference between Australia and the United States of America is that in the latter there is a sustainable cause of action for breach of privacy.

The BBC has good coverage in US military nude photo sharing scandal widens beyond Marines:

US servicemen from all parts of the military have been sharing nude photos of their female colleagues online, it has emerged.

Reports last week uncovered widespread photo sharing by current and former Marines on Facebook, triggering a navy investigation.

But the BBC has seen a message board where servicemen from other branches have shared hundreds of photos.

The Pentagon said such behaviour was “inconsistent” with its values.

Male service members use a message board on an anonymous image hosting website to share nude images of their female counterparts.

They often first post clothed photos of female personnel taken from their social media pages, and ask if any members have nude photos, which they call “wins”. Others then post photos.

Those posting sometimes provide names and other details of women, including where they are stationed. Lewd comments accompany many posts.

On Friday Pentagon chief James Matthis released a statement criticising the “lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense”.

He said those who shared photos were guilty of “egregious violations of the fundamental values” of the military.

“We will not excuse or tolerate such behaviour if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield,” the former general said.

The photo-sharing was previously reported confined to Marines on Facebook.

A Facebook group called Marines United with 30,000 members was recently closed down after the scandal erupted.


The Marines’ top commander described the revelations as an “embarrassment”.

“When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don’t think such behaviour is that of true warriors or war fighters,” Gen Robert Neller said earlier this week.

On Friday he spoke at a Pentagon press conference to caution that “we don’t want to be in a hurry” with the investigation.

“We want to make sure we’re thorough and we’re within the law,” he said, adding that “this affects our entire organisation”.

But the message board on the image-hosting website remains publicly accessible, and indicates that such practices extend throughout the military.

“Just heard [name redacted] and her bf [name redacted] broke up,” a comment on 19 December from an anonymous user on a post that appears to involve personnel at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska reads.

“Maybe he would post some.”

Another post from a different anonymous user on 12 September reads: “Any wright patt wins? I’ll start off with some”. The post refers to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

The user then posts self-taken images of a woman in a bikini, and then topless. There are many more explicit images on the message board.

The US Department of Defense said in a statement that it had issued “policy guidance” to prevent and deal with “sexual harassment and hazing”.

It is developing a new “comprehensive workplace harassment prevention and response policy”, spokesperson Myles Caggins told the BBC.

“The alleged behaviour is inconsistent with our values.”

Similar sites

Although the Marines United Facebook group has now closed, there are at least half a dozen similar groups or sites, Marine officials told CBS News.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is due to hold a hearing on the issue next week.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has launched an investigation and has asked whistleblowers to come forward with information.

On Wednesday, two women who said they were victims spoke out publicly alongside their lawyer, urging others to come forward.

“I can tell you that this exact behaviour leads to the normalisation of sexual harassment and even sexual violence,” said Erika Butner, 23, who served in the Marines for four years until last June.

Marines United’s activity was first uncovered by The War Horse, a non-profit news organisation run by Marine veteran Thomas Brennan.

Some of the photos are believed to have been taken surreptitiously. Other images are thought to have been consensual, but posted without permission.

One Response to “US Marine nude photo sharing scandal..bad and getting worse as massive privacy breach”

  1. US Marine nude photo sharing scandal..bad and getting worse as massive privacy breach | Australian Law Blogs

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