A campaigner has said she is hoping to change Instagram’s policies and close a legal “loophole” to prevent other people from being impersonated in fake social media accounts.
Jamie Klingler, co-founder of Reclaim These Streets, described how she was targeted by an unknown person who created a fake Instagram page in her name and posted explicit images of an unknown woman pretending to be her and directing people to a pornographic website, which was also fake.
Ms Klingler was alerted to the account last Tuesday evening, reported it but claimed she was unable to get it removed by Instagram until she alerted her 18,000 Twitter followers and asked them to report it.
It has since been removed, with Ms Klingler stating it was taken down in the early hours of last Wednesday morning.
Ms Klingler, who said she believed she was targeted due to her campaigning work on women’s safety which began after Sarah Everard was murdered, said the Metropolitan Police has closed the investigation.
She is due to meet executives from Meta, the company which owns Instagram, on Wednesday and is hoping it will change how it deals with fraudulent accounts.
Next week she is also hoping to meet Claire Waxman, London’s Victims Commissioner, to discuss victims’ experiences of online harm.
While Ms Klingler was not subjected to a deep fake – where a person’s face is superimposed on to another person’s body and is often used in pornography – the commissioner is making enquiries with the Met on whether deep fake pornography is a legislative gap and whether this, or other issues, led to her case being closed.
Deep fake pornography was identified as a damaging practice which is still technically legal by the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which looked at the draft Online Safety Bill earlier this year.
The Bill, which has not yet been submitted to Parliament, ensures internet companies provide “a duty of care” to their users.
“She [Ms Waxman] contacted me and said she would be contacting the Met and asked me if I would participate in getting the legislation extended and if I would testify,” Ms Klingler told the PA news agency.
“At least it feels like something good can come out of it. It felt great when she reached out to me – I felt like she was taking it seriously.”
Outlining her experience with the Met, she said: “They told me it was not classified as anything to do with a sex crime.
“It was not revenge porn because the videos weren’t of my own vagina. The only thing that it could be classified as is fraud because they were using my face to drive people to the fake porn site.
“It also wasn’t malicious communications because they broadcast the content – they didn’t direct message to anybody. So these loopholes aren’t protecting women. The fact that someone can do this to me intentionally and with malicious intent and it not fall under any of the laws, the laws need to catch up and need to change.”
Ahead of her meeting with Meta on Wednesday, Ms Klingler outlined how she hoped it might change Instagram’s policies.
“I don’t think they’re going to immediately take things down and moderate later, but [she would like to see] a more detailed and intrinsic reporting structure so that there is a panic button,” she said.
“So that if there’s nudity, violence, child pornography, there has to be a way to escalate these things, more than showing other people what’s happening.
“There’s got to be a way other than making it go viral. It shouldn’t be that I get special treatment because I’m on the news for this. But if I am targeted because of my women’s rights activism, and my safety activism, that’s really problematic too.”
She also launched a Change.org petition to urge Instagram to update its policies. It has gained more than 28,000 signatures.
In Instagram’s policies on impersonation, it says: “Instagram takes safety seriously. If someone created an Instagram account pretending to be you, you can report it to us. Make sure that you provide all the requested info, including a photo of your government-issued ID.”
Meta meanwhile has established a bullying prevention hub, which gives advice to people who are being bullied and harassed. It also has tools to prevent people from receiving “unwanted or abusive interactions” such as direct messaging controls, hidden words, blocking and limiting comments and messages.
A spokesperson for Meta said: “It’s against our rules to harass or impersonate people, and we’re sorry to hear that Jamie was targeted in this way. The account responsible was removed from Instagram.”
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “On Tuesday, 8 February police received an allegation relating to impersonation and the posting of indecent images on social media.
“An assessment of the available evidence determined that there was no realistic prospect of identifying any suspects and as such, the crime was closed.
“The complainant has been made aware of the decision.”
The Government has been contacted for comment.