Yesterday began with a very emotional blogger and friend reaching out to ask for urgent advice. Melissa is a wonderful gentle person, who achieved an amazing life goal last year. She had a completely natural home birth with her second daughter. Melissa shared a very moving article on it on her blog, Pretty Messy Melon. She also shared some personal photos to encourage, educate and engage other moms who might be considering a home birth. A friend sent her a screenshot of two photos and she was understandably horrified. The photos show Melissa, her husband and her new born baby just seconds after giving birth. The cover image of a terribly written article on clickbait publication, Babygaga.
I instantly reached out to my incredible friend Philipa Jane Farley. Philipa Jane is an electronic and intellectual property lawyer, with a passion for supporting bloggers and small business owners. She clearly advised Melissa to approach this awful situation following the legal course of action. Philipa contacted Babygaga on all their channels and by this morning, the majority of the images are gone. She then shared this in to one of the Facebook groups as general advice for the bloggers:
“Just a general answer to everyone now that I’m sitting at the computer, a public, not rude, but forceful statement of fact to the parties involved usually stops such things. It is important to screenshot the evidence as well as note where the picture appears – also, where it first appeared. Also to everyone, you CAN stop Google from indexing your images on WordPress with plugins. Not going to list all here, but a bit of research should help you. This kind of move can affect rankings slightly. I’m pretty sure you’d be able to find a plugin that plonks a watermark on an image if downloaded? There are WordPress plugins for everything.”
I spent the day with another dear friend and very popular parenting blogger, Maz from Caffeine & Fairydust (look at me, just name-dropping all over the place). We are both close to Melissa, so we discussed the whole situation at length and continued to stay in touch with her throughout the day to offer support and love wherever we could.
I am inspired seeing how the parenting blogger community come together and close ranks to protect one of our own. The parenting bloggers’ heart and relationships make us a powerful force to be reckoned with. Our community flooded the platforms of this publication, calling them out wherever they could. They also supported Philipa’s research efforts and found the contact information for the publication’s publishing company, CEO, and legal council. I am so proud to be a part of and work closely with this community!
Last night, I had this niggling urge to scroll through that awful publication’s Twitter feed. After a few minutes I froze. Of all the strange coincidences, one of my favourite photos of Maz and her brand new baby showed up on a Babygaga article from January. I’m not some crazy woman who recognises every image of a friend, but I happen to have used this specific photo in an interview I did with her a few years ago. I honestly thought I was overtired, because what were the chances of this actually being Maz? I went back and forth a few times before finally screenshotting it and, very reluctantly, sending it to her.
Reluctantly, because I know my friend very well. She is fiercely protective of her children. She has very clear disclaimers on her website. You can’t use images of her children without her explicit consent. Also reluctantly, because I was with her all day. I saw first hand how overwhelmingly furious she was at the overt exploitation of Melissa’s images. Her response was exactly as expected. Then this morning she wrote this awesome post, sharing some online security tips and sharing her story.
Anybody can use your photos in any way they choose. Without your permission and, too often, without your knowledge. This specific example is so deeply disturbing, because these very personal precious moments, that were shared with beautiful stories of strength and empowerment of these women, were violated by their being used cruelly on articles that portray the exact opposite of their truth.
According to Wikipedia:
Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social …
There is no clearer example of clickbait than what they do. Arguing that this is the way of the world and that websites like this exist, does not make what they do right. Add stealing of personal copyright protected images and you have a representation of the worst examples of society. Is the fact that this publication took down these images enough? No. I have no doubt there are many more stolen personal photos on their platforms, used in ways that would destroy the women in them.
There are photos of women mid-labour… There are photos of moms holding stillborn babies… The ones that really hit me are photos of women holding their babies that were born only a few months into their pregnancies… The kind you don’t find on a stock photo site, the kind that only appears on the most private of groups for families who have experienced miscarriages. The gut punch horror that thought invokes is overpowering. The only thing that will be enough is to shut this publication down. Remove them from the public domain completely. How else do we stop that heartbroken mother coming across the photo of her stillborn baby in an article that will not only dishonour that mother and her child, but promote something abhorrent to most people.
Online photo sharing is relevant to everybody. Parenting bloggers put themselves into the public more openly, which is why I mention them specifically. I’ve written this post to spread awareness. I want to say don’t go to this publication to check if your photos are being used, because it will increase their numbers… Which considering the content of their site is their sole purpose. I understand the need to do it though. I spent a few hours last night searching their social media for the faces of my fellow bloggers and their babies, and of course, my own. The content is very upsetting, so I couldn’t face the website itself.
I’m a person who very proudly shares my photos online. I believe it is a massive part of my story as a mom and as a parenting blogger. I’ve gone through stages where I have found ways to integrate watermarks into my images. I am sure I will be doing exactly that in the coming months. Will I be going back through the 2,282 photos currently on my site? Probably not. Will I make my Instagram account private? No. I love that it is a micro-blogging platform that allows me to share the incredible journey I am on through parenthood with a photo a day of my daughter since she was born. I will likely start adding some form of watermark there too though.
It makes me so angry. What right do people have to do this to others? To make us live in fear of exploitation or danger to our children. Angry or not, if you are a parenting blogger who, like me, doesn’t want to stop sharing your photos or stories; read Maz’s article on how to protect yourself. You should also follow platforms like Philipa Jane’s. Read their blog posts, like their Facebook pages for updates and articles they share that might be relevant to you running your platforms in the safest way you can.
And when you see disgusting expoitative publications online, don’t shrug and move on. If you see blatant copyright or misinformation, report it. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have reporting facilities – use them.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel the only option is to avoid sharing altogether?