Russian Trolls Find A New App For The Same Old Harassment

Using the app FindFace, Russian 2chan users are doxing then harassing women in the adult industry

Photo Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso
Apr 29, 2016 at 1:53 PM ET

The Russian app FindFace was originally designed to help users find new friends online—it allows you to snap a photo of anyone, then uses facial recognition technology to match that photo with the person’s social media accounts. But now, internet trolls on the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) are using the app to dox and harass porn actresses and escorts.

This doxing campaign began shortly after Moscow photographer Egor Tsvetkov proved the power of FindFace in his art project “Your Face Is Big Data,” in which he matched random subway passengers with their profiles on Vkontakte, Russia’s biggest social network.

Because the app links photos to Vkontakte profiles, the pseudonyms often used by those in the adult industry to maintain their anonymity are rendered useless. FindFace can instantly link their nude photographs to their profiles.

A 2chan thread from earlier this month is titled “Bullying the turncoats who starred in porn or worked as prostitutes.” On it, anonymous users share the links to dozens of the Vkontakte profiles of women who have appeared in pornography or on escort websites—they post the social media profile photos of the women alongside nude images, seemingly taking from pornographic films and photoshoots. In their personal photos, the women pose with their friends, husbands, some with their children. One woman appears in a wedding dress.

But the 2chan users go beyond simply doxing the women. They encourage other users to engage in what’s called “the hounding.”

The site features instructions on “how to bully a whore,” which advises users to send the nude photos and porn videos of the women to their closest friends and relatives. Why? “For great justice,” writes one of the anonymous users. “Whores should keep their place,” adds another.

I’m speaking sense here. These whores want to earn hundreds of thousands just fucking pleasantly, and at the same time they want to be respected. What the hell is that about? Let them suffer,” writes another anonymous user. “Actually, we need a database for all whores and bitches so their names could stay there forever.”

One of the affected women, Maya, was a victim of this harassment. “I experienced the attacks myself,” she told Vocativ. “One of these ‘advocates of morality’ even put the link to my videos on my Vkontakte page. Others kept asking if it was me or not.”

Unlike many of the doxed women, Maya is relatively public about her adult industry work. She has an official group in Vkontakte, and on her Instagram account, which features several racy lingerie shots, she tells viewers that she is a model and actress open to commissions. For her, the online attacks have a silver lining. She sees them as a way to raise her popularity and get more job offers. And she has, for the most part, resolved the awkward question of telling friends and relatives about her work and is at peace with the results: “Only truly faithful people stay with you after someone tries to expose you. Only those who don’t care about how their friend earns a living.”

Maya thinks FindFace is a useful app, but considers the way “these idiots” use it inexcusable: “A fake name in this business protects from unnecessary rumors,” she says. And while she isn’t so bothered with her adult work being linked to her real identity, she acknowledges that “not everyone is so brave.”

She is right: Not everyone in business is comfortable being publicly linked with their adult industry work. Most of the doxed women have deleted their profiles on Vkontake after being threatened, and others have closed the access to their private messages or photos.

Hunting Russian porn actresses down and doxing them is nothing new for 2chan users. Though FindFace has made the process quick and easy, it’s been a favorite activity long before the creation of the app. There are several threads archived from 2014 in which dozens of anonymous users share the personal data of women in the adult industry.

I didn’t delete my [Vkontakte] page after the attacks because it’s my choice—the choice of an adult and a rational person,” says Maya, the model. “These shoots are nothing more than my job, a job that pays my bills, and I’m not afraid of publicity. I don’t seduce youngsters, I don’t do drug trafficking, I just gratify the very same people who fight for ‘morality.’”

Though it started earlier this month, the campaign to dox adult industry women doesn’t seem to be losing steam. As older doxing threads are archived, new ones appear. One anonymous user lamented the persistence of the trolls: Life is dreadful. Especially if you are a whore.”

All quotes and comments have been translated from Russian.