A Russian-based porn website has come under fire from Police and NetSafe after unsuspecting Kiwi women have fallen victim to revenge porn.
The website, which the Herald has chosen not to name in order not to bring further traffic to it, includes a New Zealand category and encourages users to upload images of Kiwi women.
It was brought to the attention of online safety organisation NetSafe over a year ago, when women started reporting that their images were being used without consent.
NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the organisation had received reports about the website on and off for the past year.
"We get two types of reports. There are people who report to us that there are images of themselves or some other New Zealanders on the site and those images are there against their wishes and they would like them removed," he said.
"We also get people who report the website and ask to have the website removed."
A Tauranga woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she discovered the website after another woman posted within a Facebook group asking for help.
She has since spent the past year trying to fight the website creators and users while advocating for women's rights.
"The site runs like 4chan and Reddit where everyone is anonymous and they can post to message boards, but this one is purely made for porn," she said.
"When you click on to a country like New Zealand, it has images of girls from New Zealand that have been posted by guys they know or taken from social media."
Some users hacked into women's social media accounts to source their images.
"A lot of girls have also had pictures they sent to past partners, posted as revenge porn."
The woman said after discovering the website, and realising she knew people on it, she made it her mission to make victims aware and fight the users sharing the content.
" These girls have no idea as the website isn't a well-known one.
"At first they are confused and want me to explain what it is, then they will be in shock and ask what they can do, while others get very upset."
She, and other women, have contacted NetSafe, Police, and tried to expose the identities of the websites users.
" But that is really hard on sites where it is encrypted to keep the users anonymous," she said.
She said the website was "pretty sick" and "quite disheartening".
"I hope these users, who I assume are mainly male, will learn it is dangerous and will stop.
"It is the typical argument of what if it was your mother, sister or daughter – but it doesn't seem to hit them until it actually is their family."
She said many of the victimised woman were too afraid to go to authorities for help or embarrassed.
"A lot of girls have just accepted it because there is nothing you can do, but a lot of girls are also blaming themselves for ever sending these images."
Cocker said although NetSafe didn't have the mechanism to remove a website, it had the ability to get harmful images removed.
"Where people have reported specific images of themselves or somebody they know, then we have reported those through and in the majority of cases that content has been removed by the website owners," he said.
"Unfortunately what happens often is that people don't want to tell us about the specific images of them, but if people aren't specific in their report unfortunately we can't make a request to get them removed.
"Our plea is that people let NetSafe know specifically the images that they are concerned about, and to trust in the fact that NetSafe has to deal with this on a regular basis and will protect them and their identity."
A Police spokesperson said they was making inquiries into the website.
"Possessing or publishing, selling, exporting or importing an intimate recording is an offence. Police take this seriously and would like to remind anyone engaging in such behaviour that there can be a penalty of up to three years [in jail].
"Police do encounter victims who have provided consent for intimate images to be taken but then they have later been used inappropriately, such as being posted online without permission.
"We always encourage people to come forward and report any suspicious or criminal behaviour to allow us to investigate the incident and hold the offender to account where possible."
Cybercrime unit officer Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Dalziel said under the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDC) police had a number of avenues to prosecute.
"There are always challenges in investigating online offending and the introduction of more technology and mobile applications means this is continually changing.
"Electronic evidence is fragile, and the internet is perceived as an easy place to hide online. That being said, in a lot of HDC cases the offender is often known to the victim, or is the sole person known to have access to the material."
He said there had been a clear increase in prosecutions since the act was introduced.
"The process remains victim focused and we are continually working to improve our processes in this realm of offending and ensure a consistent approach for victims across New Zealand."
Cocker's message to people considering posting images on a porn site without consent was "you most certainly will be breaching the law".
"For people producing these images, my advice is simple - if you don't produce it, then there is no risk," he said.
Where to get help:
• Anyone who has been a victim of such a crime or has information on someone committing an offence is strongly advised to report this. This can be done to your local Police or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 08000 555 111.
• NetSafe can be contacted on 0508 NETSAFE (638723) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Its contact centre is open from 8am till 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am till 5pm Saturday and Sunday.