A Vancouver Island business owner has made it her mission to make social media platforms more accountable after a hacker seized her Instagram account and demanded naked photos in return last week.
On Jan. 28, Rebecca Burrows, owner of Oak Bay’s Hughes Clothing, received a message from what looked like Instagram saying that it was having some problems with copyright infringement and asking her to fill out a form with some personal information. Worried that she may have accidentally posted a distributor’s photo without proper permission, Burrows filled out and sent in the form.
Soon after, she discovered her credit card, email and Instagram had been hacked and she no longer had control of her account.
When Burrows messaged the hacker through her personal Instagram and asked for her account back, he responded that he would return it on one condition – that she send naked photos of herself.
“I was mortified,” Burrows said. “I was almost ashamed, which I think in a lot of violations that’s a normal feeling. You right away go to blame yourself.”
On Wednesday night, Burrows found out the invasion hadn’t stopped with her. The hacker also found and messaged her 12-year-old step-daughter and sent her a sleazy photo of himself.
“It was just gross,” Burrows said. “Inappropriate beyond measure.”
Since then, Burrows said she has sent more than 100 messages to Instagram reporting the incident and the hacker’s account, but the only response she has gotten is an automated “we found this account likely doesn’t go against our Community Guidelines.” She also reported it to police but was told because it was online and the hacker doesn’t appear to live in Canada, there is nothing they can do.
“There’s this big kind of universe out there that’s unpoliced,” she said. Perhaps the biggest frustration, Burrows added, is that it is impossible to get in touch with an actual person at conglomerates like Facebook – which owns Instagram.
So, Burrows has decided to take it upon herself to change that. She is starting a non-profit with the goal of lobbying conglomerates to create a 1-800 number with real people on the other end to help individuals – especially women and children – who have been sexually targeted on their platforms. She is also working to get the government to hold online platforms to account.
“I want to leave my mark and make something good out of something bad that happened.”
The new Hughes Clothing Instagram account can be found at @hughesclothingvictoria.
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