How do I get these photos removed from the web?
February 15, 2014 6:43 AM   Subscribe

I am a midwifery student in the US. I found a website of a man who claims to be a midwife. This man has a very disturbing website with very graphic, I would say pornographic, photos of women whose births he has attended. These are poor women of color from another country. Going by the demographics, it is likely that many of these women come from conservative catholic background and would be horrified by nude photos of themselves plastered all over the internet. There is little chance that most of these women have internet access and ZERO Chance that all of these women have consented to these photos being placed on the world wide web. I am very angry that these women have had such graphic photos placed of them on the web without their consent. What steps should I take to have these photos taken down, if that is possible? I have done a whois search and gotten that info. What is my best possible course of action to have the maximum chance of having these women's photos removed and/or the site shut down?
posted by anonymous to Technology (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The easiest first step would be to see whether sexually explicit material violates the terms of service of the hosting provider.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:46 AM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

It may be easier to take down the practitioner (if he in fact is one, at least) than to take down the photos. Is he affiliated with a hospital or group practice? Is there a relevant professional/regulatory board (regional, national) in his practice area?
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:00 AM on February 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Become close friends with this man, and eventually convince him that having these pictures online does more harm than good. If you get the site removed due to a terms of service violation he can simply switch to a different host. If you can get in touch with the women or photographer you can help them with legal action but beware of the Streisand effect.
posted by Sophont at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2014

Good for you for trying to fix this. I'm sure other people will chime in with more information on the legal side of it, but I might start by sending him a message that lays out your concerns. (Assuming you have some way of contacting him via his site.) The goal of this email would be, first, to let him know that someone is aware of what he's doing (which can be enough to scare off a certain kind of predator) and to let him know in no uncertain terms that what he is doing is absolutely unethical. I have no doubt he knows that, but again, it's possible that would be enough to scare him straight. Even if not, I believe in the importance of paper trails, and trying the most direct methods first.

If you do decide to write him, I think it's important you strike the right tone: you don't want to make empty threats about taking the site down if you don't have the power to do that, or employ empty legalese, which sounds ridiculous in a lot of instances. But, I think the more concrete information you can gather about him and his site, the more weight your email would carry. Do you have his full name? It seems like you know the region where he worked - do you know the name of the clinic? Again, without resorting to threats, I think you could frame an email that simply says: "Dear Jerkface, I am aware you are doing this thing (posting naked pictures of women from X clinic in Y region, without their consent), this behavior is unethical; please take the pictures down." Even if it's not enough to solve the problem, it's an important first step.

There is, of course, some risk of blowback if you contact this man under your real name, so you'd have to decide if that's worth it to you or not, and how vulnerable a position you're in. If you'd like some help putting together the message, feel free to email me (or maybe we could crowdsource it here).

Thanks for taking this on. Good luck.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:14 AM on February 15, 2014

I thought it was standard practice to obscure faces and other identifying marks when publishing medical pictures.

Depending on the number of photos, I would block out the faces myself (even Irfanview can do such simple edits) and send him copies of the revised files. Then, just a kind letter to the website owner suggesting he upload the pictures with the faces obscurred. How could he argue with that?
posted by 99percentfake at 7:16 AM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

you attack him through his licensing authority, depending on where he is and if he has one. failing that, you attack through his professional circle, alerting every other midwife and obstetrician in his area, failing that, you attack through social media, letting all his facebook friends know what he's doing.
posted by bruce at 7:22 AM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Call your state's attorney general's office, or his state's attorney general's office, and ask for advice.

I've done this as a random concerned citizen, and they were INCREDIBLY helpful. While they won't do an investigation for you, they likely will point you towards what steps and documentation are necessary to trigger an investigation. They'll also tell you with who/where your information will do the most good in terms of getting the pics removed, and the perp in trouble.

I have no doubt that posting porn masquerading as medical pics of women that likely did not sign consent forms to have their images on the www is totally illegal.

Double check any advice you get with federal sources like your local FBI. A quick phone call or series of calls likely should help you do what you want.

NO, do not contact this person or let him know you are reporting him. Jeez!

There are likely scenarios here ranging from (a) this guy is well meaning but totally clueless, to (b) he has used his position with a charity or similar org to sneakily engage in this pervy and violating hobby of posting pics, all the way to (z) he's part of a group that willfully posts these types of images with ill intent .

Among other things, your (his?) state's attorney general's office will tell you, if you should report this practioner and/or the org he works with to some sort of medical authority or regulating body of charities.

Please take screen shots and document the website and the Whois information so you can pass this evidence on to whatever authorities need to notified.

This seems less about getting some faces in graphic pics blocked out, and more about notifying whatever authorities are relevant that this guy exists and is doing what he's doing.

I don't think you should directly contact this guy or the organization he works for, let the authorities do that if it is appropriate.

Maybe he's not breaking any laws and it's all on the up-n-up, but I doubt it.

Start to verify what is going on here by calling your state's attorney general's office.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Point of clarification: this man is practicing in another country and licensed there?
posted by SLC Mom at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2014

Go through the legal channels first. If that doesn't work, write a letter then direct it to every internet website that has anything at all to do with midwifery, baby care, child rearing, feminism, or any other interested party. Write churches and other midwives. Ask if they can flood his site carrier with demands to take the photos down, or to black out the faces, if nothing else. Get the word out that this person is an asshole. Ask that they help you be vigilant in helping you keep him from posting elsewhere. If one woman who would have used him as a midwife is salvaged from his porn, then you've done something laudable.

Don't contact him other than to send a letter along with other interested parties. Don't out yourself as the instigator of this.

Good luck to you. Hopefully, you can get someone on the legal end of this interested.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:43 AM on February 15, 2014

This time without the link--his site has a big warning notice and he's not practicing any longer, according to the site. I'd guess that the warning is sufficient for his provider to allow the photos. They don't look pornographic to my eye, but that's not the point.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2014

I'm curious why you call the photos pornographic. Midwifery photography is graphic, but its hard for me to picture how they are sexualized. I agree it's unethical to post birth photos without consent from the subjects, but my first instinct, as someone who lived in the midwifery community for many years, would be to guess the guy is clueless.

I think he's unlikely to take them down voluntarily.
posted by latkes at 12:52 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would urge you not to focus either on the "pornographic" nature of the photos, nor on the gender of the midwife, and rather focus on consent issues. You can very easily provoke an angry derail as to whether birth photography is sexual or not, and that's irrelevant to your position. But the issue of ethical sharing of photographs is one that IME the birth community is very tuned into.
posted by KathrynT at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I understand and applaud your desire not to allow women to be exploited, but I am unsure how you can be certain that is what is going on here.

Could you please clarify the nature of the photos that are disturbing you? Are these graphic photos of birth experiences, or just graphic nude photos? Is there something particularly degrading or embarrassing about the pictures, or inappropriate commenting about the women's physical features? Is it the nudity that bothers you, or that the the women are easily identifiable in the photos, or what, exactly?

I guess I am just wondering, given that people make individual choices about birth (some people do film births, for example, while others would not even want their partner in the room), how you know consent was not given for these photos to be taken and posted. Do you feel the photos were taken by the midwife in an underhanded manner, without the patients' knowledge? Or that the patients consented to the pictures but just did not think they would be put online?

Basically, are you really 100% sure the women in question would want these pictures taken down, or do you want them taken down because they make you uncomfortable?
posted by misha at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Since you know who owns the site--why not just email him and ask about the consent issue? However, there's a lot of Flickr photos of random strangers and I'd guess that those photographers doesn't have signed releases from all of those people.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:35 PM on February 15, 2014

I haven´t seen the photos, but after reading your post I can´t help wondering if you really are right in trying to take down those photos.

"Very graphic, I would say pornographic" is not the same as pornographic. There is a huge difference there. What I read from it is that the photos are not really pornographic but they offend your (conservative?) morality.

If that is the case, I would ask why do you feel entitled to request those photos to be taken down.

You have all the right in the world to not take or post similar photos of families you work for, but not everybody feels the same way.

Childbirth is very intense, from physical, emotional and sensory point of views, and it is indeed graphic itself. For a lot of people, that intensity is beautiful, and memories of that experience are something to look at and share.

I see a great deal of prejudice in saying, just by their looks, that those families have no internet access and could never have consented to their photos being displayed there. What can you know, from the comfort of your home, about the way they live, what they can and cannot do, and how they feel about childbirth? I remember seeing an Uru couple living in a hut made of reeds, on a floating island also made of reeds, in the middle of the Titicaca lake, who had satellite TV and internet. That was about 10 years ago.

Unless you know for a fact that any of those families didn´t want those photos to be taken, or to be posted online, you shouldn´t jump to conclusions and call that man a predator, report him anywhere, harass him or assume the families involved don´t know their photos are there. Depending on where he is, and where you are, defaming or harassing him as some have suggested can be illegal and can get you in trouble instead.
posted by Fermin at 9:59 PM on February 15, 2014

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