Moroccan Facebook Page Posts Compromising Photos of Girls

The city of Marrakech has been shocked by an anonymous Facebook page on which compromising photos of young girls are posted without their consent, writes Mohammed Boudarham.

al-monitor A general view of Marrakesh?s famous Jemma el-Fnaa square, June 25, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Abderrahmane Mokhtari.

Thèmes

violence, social media, facebook

févr. 15, 2013

Over the last couple of weeks, a Facebook page called "Scoop Marrakech" has been terrorizing young girls from Marrakech. Its owner is behind bars, but compromising photos continue to be published on it. The following are details of an investigation with which the police are struggling.

You have probably heard of the Facebook page that has wreaked havoc in the Ochre City and tarnished the reputation of dozens of young women. Photos taken in schools, swimming pools, cafes and even private parties such as birthdays or weddings are tastelessly published there. In the overwhelming majority of cases, except for a few really "hot" shots, they are mundane photos, but the accompanying comments are extremely violent. The girls in these photos are called “prostitutes" and the comments often include their names, addresses and activities. Flooded with complaints, the police finally decided to take action. Following several days of investigation, Marrakech police, supported by a unit of computer engineers from DGSN, managed to locate and arrest the first suspect. But this does not mean that the case is settled; other possible suspects are still being sought.

Geek trip

On Jan. 23, 2013, police officers went to the house of a family in the neighborhood of Al-Massira looking for M.A.Z., a 21-year-old man who has been unemployed since he left school several years ago.

"He is not a computer whiz, but he is really addicted to the Internet, which is practically his sole occupation," said a Marrakech police source, adding that the defendant's laptop, phone and USB flash drive have been seized for investigation purposes.

Our source says that M.A.Z. does not suffer from any psychological disorder and has no problem with the opposite sex. He did not even act in a spirit of revenge after a romantic dalliance of his was prematurely curtailed.

"He launched his page in November 2012 and ended up getting carried away. The traffic and the infamy that this page received made him continue," says our interlocutor. But how did he manage to trap his victims and acquire their photos? "We know that he only took a few of the photos himself. He stole most of them from websites and especially other Facebook pages. And hundreds of other users took over," the investigator explained. "Scoop Marrakech" is open to everyone, and any user can post pictures and leave comments.

Our sources in Marrakech, however, do not rule out the possibility of the existence of accomplices who continue to feed the page. This explains the police blackout regarding this issue. For nearly two weeks after the first arrest, neither the national police nor DGSN issued any official statement on this matter, which continues to keep the population of Marrakech in suspense.

The Facebook labyrinth

Even after the arrest of M.A.Z., "Scoop Marrakech" continues to taunt the security services. On Jan. 25, two days after his arrest, the page released a 3-minute film showing two people engaged in heavy petting in a public place.

“This is what reinforces our belief that there have been accomplices,” a security source said. But this is not all. The perpetrator, or perpetrators, of “Scoop Marrakech” have been emulated.

Similar pages bearing the same name have proliferated like mushrooms and reflect almost exactly the same content. That is what makes it difficult for both investigators and specialists of the regional laboratory for digital-trace analysis, a department established Dec. 16, 2012 in the police prefecture.

So why not head directly to the source and shut “Scoop Marrakech” down?

“Steps have been taken in this direction with Facebook and we are still awaiting their response," a police source in Marrakech said. But even this will not solve the problem since it is practically impossible to keep up with all these pages, unless an outright ban is imposed on accessing Facebook. To make matters worse, some users have taken over other websites, including YouTube, where the same photos scroll across the screen for several minutes at a time, along with the same scathing comments.

This has become a trend even beyond Marrakech. In fact, there have been countless Facebook pages with the word "scoop" linked to the name of a city, with a series of photos with commentary. What’s worse, the photos that are posted on foreign sites are presented as those of young Moroccans. Meanwhile, the case of "Scoop Marrakech" has not revealed all its secrets. The latest news is that M.A.Z. has denied everything, reneging on his initial statements to the police. He will remain under interrogation until a date is set for bring him to justice.

Fear over the city

The first victims of "Scoop Marrakech" have been going through hard times, with their reputations tarnished throughout the city.

"Some of these girls refuse to go to school or even out in the street for fear of being stigmatized," a source in Marrakech said. This is the general climate of fear and everyone is suspicious of everyone. A mother has even attempted suicide when she was shown pictures of her teenage daughter. This information has been denied by a security source, who said that “people exaggerate, but it is true that this page has caused a lot of damage."

Since this incident, wielding a camera or mobile phone in public squares, cafes and other places open to the public has become suspicious. It took several months for Agadir to forget the scandal of Belgian journalist Philippe Servaty, whose trial is still not closed, seven years after the breakup of the case. Marrakech will surely need time to forget "Scoop Marrakech.”

"In the meantime, it is the duty of the authorities to better monitor the vicinity of schools and raise awareness among young girls, who are the primary targets of such sites,” noted a father from Marrakech. The public prosecutors in several cities have ordered investigations into several Facebook pages that have sprung up in recent weeks and operate in the same way as "Scoop Marrakech.”

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