Leaking nude photographs a growing phenomenon in Israel

Dozens of groups in Israel alone exist for the purpose of spreading such footage illegally.

The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this picture illustration (photo credit: ILYA NAYMUCHIN)
The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this picture illustration
(photo credit: ILYA NAYMUCHIN)
Twelve suspects between ages 17 and 30 were arrested in November for spreading nude photographs of hundreds of women through the Telegram app without consent, according to Mako, an Israeli media outlet. The men took endless photographs and videos of nude women who either knew they were photographed or were filmed using hidden cameras.
Those women either did not give their consent for sharing or did not even know of the footage, which was spread across the platform. The recipients of the content were in chat groups, and included thousands of app users.
The phenomenon prompted an immediate investigation by police, who delved into the popular messenger using well-developed and complex cyber strategies in the central headquarters in Tel Aviv. The police were able to penetrate the chat groups within which the 12 criminals spread the illegal imagery, and used them to track down those responsible.
Nonetheless, with the significant advancement in messenger apps and their encryption, it has become more and more difficult for police to trace and punish criminals using such platforms. While most know the messenger app Telegram for being the platform for the now-busted largest cannabis sales network in Israel, Telegrass, the app is creating a steadily mounting problem of leaked nude photographs.
The recent incident led to the realization of the sheer potential of such a platform. Dozens of groups in Israel exist for the purpose of spreading such footage illegally. Telegram offers a sense of security for those who enjoy the photographs and a sense of anonymity. There is no way for the materials to be censored, and there is no way of enforcing rules against nude photographs distributed without consent.
One of the women whose photographs were leaked spoke with Times of Israel. Under the name “Orit,” she told them that she had only realized that her photos were leaked from the photographer after she was harassed through Facebook by someone who had received the images. Upon speaking to the photographer, he admitted that she was not the only victim, and that hackers had managed to penetrate the content and spread it like wildfire on Telegram.
Another victim taking the name “Moran” told the Times that, upon her own investigation, she found that her photographs had been leaked by someone affiliated with Telegrass.
According to Israeli law, anyone caught sending such footage without the consent or knowledge of the party involved is put in jail for up to five years.
Cities such as Yokneam Illit are trying to fight this phenomenon. The municipality enacted a new system in partnership with the Israeli Bosco app, which is installed on the phone of children and their parents. It allows parents to keep an eye on the child’s activity without releasing the entire data to them. This allows for parents to have insight on their children’s doings without invading their sense of privacy. In this way, such materials mentioned above may be prevented from spreading to a younger, more vulnerable audience.
The app can also monitor the use of social media on numerous platforms, and therein knows to recognize situations in which certain chats, groups and the like are harmful. For instance, the Telegram groups mentioned above would immediately be disconnected using Bosco.
Such technology seems a meager yet necessary initiative to protect both the women photographed and the children using such social media platforms. Telegram, in the meantime, has increased in notoriety because, although the platform claims that it regularly removes such content, it does not seem to have the capabilities to deal with such breaches.