We sat in a quaint park in the middle of Nebraska. The day was lovely and the birds chirped as Kylie Honomichl sat nervously across from us on a bench. Her kind demeanor and pleasant attitude hid the troubles she was experiencing.
“It’s not something I ever intended anybody else to see.”
Kylie, a mom now, was shocked to discover that a month ago someone posted nude photos of her on the internet. Not only were they posted but requested by someone. It was even more surprising because these were pictures she had sent to an ex-boyfriend eight years ago. They were on a website where people go to request naked photos of people they may have known and wait for others to post them. Kylie’s pictures were topless and made her feel exposed.
“It gave my first name, my maiden name, the city that I’m from asking if there were any other photos of me out there, anybody had any other explicit images that maybe I had sent to them that they would be willing to share and add to this collection," Honomichl said.
The website, anon-ib, allows anonymous posts.
One person wrote “Anyone have sexy Carolyn."
It was posted next to a selfie it appears Carolyn took herself.
The post gets even more direct listing the city where Carolyn lives. Another anonymous poster, the vast majority seem to hide behind anonymity, labels sexual or nude photos of girls “wins."
Another post from a different city petitions “wins” of “this sexy little stoner."
There are thousands of requests and hundreds of “wins."
“If somebody really wanted this many more photos of them that maybe there was a deeper infatuation or something that maybe somebody could use this information and act upon it. They could stalk this person and it opens up a risk of sexual assault or other crimes," Honomichl worries.
We wondered; is this legal? How can people do this? We took our questions to Jefferson County, Colorado Sheriff's Office Sergeant Michael Harris who investigates internet sex crimes.
“It’s nationwide. All our states are in there," he said.
He seemed frustrated he can’t do more to resolve the problem. Harris spends time educating kids on the dangers of the internet. He says this type of website, unfortunately, pops up all too often.
“When I go into schools, I ask kids, ‘How many of you know someone, other than yourself, has received a naked picture of another student or has sent a naked picture of themselves?’ and right now it’s about 90% of the kids are raising their hands," he said.
Harris knows those photos can resurface even years later. Harris walked us through the different locations on the site; we were surprised to find out:
“The photos I have seen appear to be adult photos, but needless to say they're still inappropriate and I would bet in a number of cases that the people that took these photos and know about these photos don’t know they are posted on the site.”
Because the photos are of adults, they don’t fall under any child pornography laws which would get the site shut down immediately.
“It’s mostly legal,” said cyber law attorney Edward Hopkins.
Abrupt and precise, he works with cyber crime because he feels strongly that people should be able to share photos with people they care about without the worry of being exposed. Hopkins says while the site may not be breaking the law, its users could be under federal or state revenge porn laws.
“If you’re trying to harass someone. If you’re trying to embarrass them, try to cause them extreme emotional distress, those are the requirements for engaging in revenge porn.”
Two different internet experts we talked with say the site likely exists to make money off of advertising. As visitors click through photos, popups bombard the user and when clicked, take them to premium porn sites that charge the user for their patronage.
The website seems to have loose rules about what someone can post. It’s this simple:
1) No CP. (Child Pornography)
1.1) No images containing minors. (This includes non-nude images)
2) Don't be evil.
2.1) No posting of personal details like addresses, telephone numbers, social networks links, or last names.
2.2) No private trading. (volafile/discord/kik/etc)
IMPORTANT: Breaking the rules will get your posts deleted and a ban.
Posters can remove their own photos they have posted but for others there is no easy way to get the pictures taken down.
We tried to find someone to talk to. We reached out to all the e-mail addresses we could find, called all the numbers that were listed. We spoke with the company where the site was registered in Canada and they clarified they have no control over content and just provide a domain name. One of the e-mails led us to Switzerland, the host site is based in the Netherlands and the IP traced to places in Africa. After all that we could never track down a real owner. We even talked with an IT expert and they indicated it might have some traces to 4Chan and messing with those people would be “sketchy and dangerous”.
Things may not be all doom and gloom though; Hopkins does provide some advice.
“The first thing I would do if I were you in this situation is I would contact an attorney, I got to be honest," Hopkins said. "I would contact an attorney just so I can understand what possible options are.”
If you are the one who took the photo you might be able to get it taken down by claiming copyright infringement - you are the owner and creator of that photo. But that doesn't always work. Kylie has been trying for weeks now to get her pictures pulled down to really no avail. We even tracked down the ex-boyfriend who was in possession of the photos. He claimed to have had his laptop stolen and denies being the person who posted the photos in the first place. Kylie now has a new goal… letting others know to be careful.
“I had to kind of step above my embarrassment level on this and be open to that so other women out there could know that this is a thing because I would hate for this to happened to more women out there.”