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Digital Kidnapping - Social Media's Most Sinister Trend

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How people behave on social media tends to hinge very heavily on how well their life is going, as well as the stability of their mental state. Often it can highlight the difference between someone leading a fulfilling life and someone merely attempting to project the image of one. There's something distinctly ironic about a person who seems to spend all their free time reminding everyone on their Facebook about how cripplingly busy they are. It extends beyond that though, with some people going to disturbing extremes to create a veneer of a non-existent life. Case in point - digital kidnapping.

That might sound like a term for that bit in Tron when Jeff Bridges got zapped into the computer against his will, but the truth is far more sinister. Digital kidnapping is the practise of dredging up images of children from somebody else's social media profile - and passing them off as your own. The intent isn't necessarily to trick everyone else into thinking that you have kids when you don't, such a thing would take a lot of elaborate planning, most of the time it's done as a kind of role play, hashtagged as 'KidRP' or 'BabyRP'. The people commenting and sharing know full well that it's not that person's kid, they're just playing along.

An entire subculture has developed surrounding this practise with images of young children being auctioned off as people pick out their ideal fake child. With that done, they pick out names and post images of them as banners for conversations about all the breastfeeding, nappy changing and other child care they're not doing. In some cases the actual parents have discovered this and contacted the users in question, asking them to take the images down and often times they have apologetically agreed. The kind of people who would engage in activity like this don't strike me as malicious, just perhaps not expecting to get caught.

The problem with this kind of activity (aside from the obvious) is that it's not technically illegal and while platforms like Facebook and Instagram can block it on terms violation grounds, it has to be reported on a case by case basis. There is no direct way to stop people from sharing images of children, or just saving them and reposting them elsewhere. There are some apps which enable you to securely share pictures without any risk of this kind of thing happening, or you could, y'know, just keep them saved on your phone and show them to people when you actually see them. Just saying.

Sometimes the fantasies have reportedly extended into sexual fantasy, similar to that 'adult baby' thing you saw a documentary about on late night TV once. Once again, none of any of this implies any malicious intent and most people who engage in it seem well aware that it's all make-believe, but it's still a massive privacy infringement and a glaring example of what happens when life goes totally online. We seem to have reached a kind of fever pitch with social media where things need to go back to move forwards, but I don't think anyone could have predicted a future where baby photos would start getting lifted and reposted by some random guy in China.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Digital Kidnapping - Social Media's Most Sinister Trend Reviewed by Callum Davies on Thursday, July 30, 2015 Rating: 5

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