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Fri May 5, 2017, 08:46 PM

How Two Marines Helped Bring Down Revenge Porn on Facebook

In September 2016, John Albert, a bearded, 30-year-old retired Marine from Greenville, South Carolina, noticed something shocking on Facebook. He had been invited to join a Facebook group called Marines United, and began to scroll through the feed. He saw images of naked female soldiers, civilians, and graphic discussions of sexually assaulting these women.

"Where is she at?" he recalls the comments saying. "'I'd rape her, I'd bend her over, I'd make her choke.' There was a picture of a girl standing outside of a building, and they were saying this is what I would do to her, which unit, and which base is she at?"

Disturbed, Albert read through two days of timelines, and more than half of the posts featured nude images and sexually harassing content.

"I got really frustrated and offended," Albert says. "In the military, we're supposed to be the people who put our lives on the line to protect our country. But when you become a predator you're not protecting your country anymore, you are someone this country needs protection from."

Albert took screen grabs of what he saw, and reported the group to Facebook. About a week later, he was notified that the group had been shut down. "I thought Marines United was over," he says.

Then, early last March, investigative journalist and former Marine Thomas Brennan reported that Marines United was again trading photos of nude women in a private Facebook group. Some of the photos were taken secretly, others were hacked, and a few more came from former lovers. Members again suggested sexually assaulting their colleagues, and also shared a Google document that listed women's names and addresses.

These pages sent ripples through the military community. In an op-ed, a former Marine sergeant claimed the Marines United incident reflected a larger, anti-female culture in the armed forces. Then two women, Erika Butner and Marisa Woytek, whose photos appeared on the Marines United page, spoke out at a press conference with their attorney Gloria Allred. "As a rape survivor, I can tell you that this exact behavior leads to the normalization of sexual harassment and even sexual violence," Butner said. Meanwhile, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller, was called before Congress and excoriated by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: "If we can't crack Facebook," she said. "How are we supposed to be able to confront Russian aggression and cyber hacking throughout our military?"


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