In the ten days since news broke that active and veteran Marines were sharing nude photos of women without their consent on Facebook, the social media company has still not removed all of the groups responsible for the scandal.
An investigative report revealed on March 4 that hundreds of current and former U.S. Marines, U.S Navy Corpsman and British Royal Marines shared naked photos of their female colleagues, girlfriends, wives, and unsuspecting citizens on a private Facebook group called Marines United. The story prompted multiple law enforcement investigations and an upcoming Congressional hearing with the top Marine general on Tuesday.
A Facebook spokesman said Monday that the site had shut down Marines United, but The Daily Beast has found that multiple new groups have popped up with some of the same users, same administrators, and same material available for download as Marines United.
“We want to have an open and safe environment on Facebook,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. “The Marines United Group has been removed.”
But Marines United administrators had simply created multiple backup rooms that were also designated secret or closed in order to skirt law enforcement investigations and Facebook screeners. “Marines United” simply became “MU” with additional versions such as “Marines United 2.0” and two private chat rooms with the name “Marines United 3.0.” Another group called “Just The Tip Of The Spear” or JTTOTS for short was similarly engaged in nude photo sharing.
The original JTTOTS was shut down by Facebook, yet, like MU, additional groups were created with the same name. Currently, a JTTOTS II is active on Facebook with more than 28,000 members — The Daily Beast has not yet confirmed if JTTOTS II engages in similar behavior as MU. Unconfirmed reports suggest that JTTOTS II has no affiliation with the original JTTOTS chat room.
Hours before this story was published, The Daily Beast learned that Marines United 2.0, which was created in the wake of the original Marines United chat room has been shut down by Facebook, according to a U.S. Marine veteran were calling “Gary” due to Pentagon regulations regarding media contact.
The private Marines United 2.0 chat room was one of many back-up pages created by MU administrators to anticipate page shutdowns by Facebook and to evade law enforcement investigations.
Access was again only granted to both active duty and veteran male U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy Corpsman and British Royal Marines.
One reason for the apparent lack of action is Facebook’s policy states that violations of its standards must be reported first by a community member.
Under Facebook’s community standards guidelines concerning the process of reporting alleged abuses within the online community, the Facebook policy asserts that they “rely” on users to report violations, regardless if the room is classified as open, closed or secret.
“We are protective of the privacy and security of the people who use Facebook,” Stone told The Daily Beast. “When we are made aware of content that violates our community standards, we remove it.”
An additional policy regarding nudity states that Facebook removes “photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks... restricting some images of female breasts if they include the nipple [and] explicit images of sexual intercourse are prohibited. Descriptions of sexual acts that go into vivid detail may also be removed.”
“We do not allow harassment and remove content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them,” Stone stated. “We also remove content that threatens or promotes sexual violence or exploitation. We encourage people to report content to us for review when they see something that should not be on Facebook, and also suggest reaching out to law enforcement directly if there is a situation in which the authorities can help.”
Gary provided screenshots from Marines United 2.0 to The Daily Beast just days after the original story broke.
“The first day [Marines United 2.0 was created] they were wild,” Gary said, “[MU 2.0 members] were posting left and right the links to all the nude pictures, posting several dozen nude photos an hour, but when I started sending The Daily Beast screenshots and word got out about them being exposed, things came to a screeching halt in the last two days.”
Gary says that he had to report dozens of posts [to Facebook], dozens of profiles, and the entire group of Marines United 2.0 at least ten times. Just before publication of this article, Facebook shut down Marines United 2.0.
Despite that win, Gary told The Daily Beast that Facebook’s community standards policies regarding violations and the reporting process are inadequate.
“If I reported an individual for nude pictures, Facebook would take it down, but when I was reporting the group for nude pictures, Facebook would tell me it did not violate their community standards,” he said.
Nevertheless, despite Facebook’s policy of removing sexually charged images, Gary has provided The Daily Beast with multiple examples of where nude photos were shared in private chat rooms among MU, their offshoots and JTTOTS.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller is set to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by U.S. Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, (R – AZ), on Tuesday at 10:00 am. Neller will be question behind closed doors and in front of the public on the current allegations surrounding social media behavior and the Marines United case.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D - NY) called for the Congressional hearing as news broke last week, writing a letter to McCain and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D - RI), saying, “This unacceptable behavior spotlights a culture of disrespect for female service members that undermines good order and discipline in the military and weakens military readiness.”