A fifteen year old boy from Belgium killed himself when he couldn’t have a nude photo of himself – which someone else posted – removed from Instagram. His pleas to the administrator of the account to delete the photo reportedly fell on deaf ears.
The boy’s story was discussed during a conference in Brussels titled “Supporting Victims of Cybercrime”. The event was hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and organised by Victims Support Europe (VSE), Europe’s leading umbrella organisation speaking out on behalf of victims of crime.
“He never told us what he was going through; we had no idea,” said the boy’s mother in a video shown at the conference.
“He must have felt ashamed. The worst part must have been the likes and reactions below the photo. His full name was revealed. Imagine what this feels like for a 15-year old. He must have thought he would never be able to remove the photo. He must have felt there was no end to this.”
Addressing the conference on behalf of the EESC, the President of the Section of Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship, Pavel Trantina, said: “We continue to face challenges in providing support for victims across a wide range of circumstances and in ever-evolving circumstances and situations. The topic of cybercrime is of growing importance.”
Speakers at the conference agreed that tools were already in place to assist victims but that more needed to be done to help them be better informed and understand their rights.
“Victims need to be made aware what to do, how to do it and know that they are not alone,” said Levent Altan, executive director of VSE, adding that victims of online crimes should have a right to specialised support tailored to their own needs.
Ann Moulds, founder of Action against Stalking, fights for further harmonisation of laws against stalking and its recognition as a criminal offence, to prevent “stalkers falling through the net”.
Julie de Bailliencourt, Safety Policy Manager at Facebook, said her company had zero tolerance for hate speech, bullying, revenge porn and any predatory behaviour towards children.
“The right to be forgotten is here,” de Bailliencourt said. “People need to understand that social platforms are also there to help. We have the means to remove the content. If you delete your Facebook profile, it will be deleted.”