ALMENDRALEJO – Almendralejo, a relatively small city in the province of Badajoz with just over 33,000 inhabitants, has been shocked by a disturbing case of manipulated photos of underage girls.
The images, which were made with the help of artificial intelligence, spread like wildfire via WhatsApp groups. It seemed so real that even the parents had trouble questioning its authenticity.
To make matters worse, there are also parents who are doubly affected: their son was the administrator of the chat where the photos were distributed, while their 12-year-old daughter is one of the victims. On Monday their son was taken to the police station to give his version of events.
“Photos are hyper-realistic”
A local gynecologist and influencer, Miriam Al Adib, who specialises in sex education for adolescents, brought the matter to light to put an end to the continued circulation of these photos. “The photos are hyper-realistic. Therefore, if you don’t really know my daughter like I do, you would believe it’s her body,” Miriam said.
Increase in declarations
So far, 11 reports have been filed and more are planned. The affected families have even created a WhatsApp group to discuss next steps. Legal advice suggests that individual declarations would be more effective than a collective declaration.
The situation is serious. For example, Ana (a fictitious name), a 15-year-old girl, explains that she recently decided to leave her group of friends due to persistent bullying about her weight. Unfortunately, she also turned out to be a victim of the manipulated photos distributed via WhatsApp.
“It has gone over our heads. What may have started as a joke has gotten out of hand,” states Pedro, one of the parents. According to Miriam, it is important that these young people understand that what they have done is a crime. Even if it is out of ignorance. “The majority may have done this without any bad intentions, but that does not reduce the pain of the victims,” she emphasises.
The families now fear that these images have ended up on specialist pornographic websites and that it will be difficult to stop the spiral of spread. “Some even say that services have already been requested on the Internet with these images,” Pedro adds.
Victims’ welfare top priority
While the legal processes take their course, the welfare of the affected girls is the top priority. Miriam says she has managed to generate both social awareness and support for the victims. “There is social unrest, but there has also been great awareness about the issue,” she concludes.