A study by the Internet Watch Foundation found that nearly nine out of every 10 sexually explicit photos that youth sent to each other via e-mail or text message ended up on pornography website, Slate reported.
The UK-based foundation, which seeks to "minimize the availability of potentially criminal internet content," spent four weeks analyzing 12,224 images and videos that had been copied from their original upload sources and posted elsewhere.
"In less than 48 working hours, IWF analysts encountered more than 12,000 such images and videos spread over 68 websites," the foundation wrote.
The study found that 10,776 of those images and videos later turned up on "parasite" websites.
“During the course of our work we encounter large quantities of self-generated sexual content which has been copied from its original location and then uploaded elsewhere to form collections, but this is the first time we’ve been able to demonstrate the extent to which this occurs,” said Sarah Smith, IWF technical researcher, as quoted on the foundation website.
One anonymous young person told the foundation: "One explicit image I took when I was young but I cannot be specific to if I was 15 or 16 because it was long ago, and I never posted it to the internet…It is coming up on the first page of [search engine] also if my name is searched and on [search engine] images for my name which could jeopardize any future career I have or if any family/friends come across it.”
An analysis in Forbes ventured that the lesson of the study goes beyond the advice that young people shouldn't share explicit digital images of themselves.
"It’s entirely possible that people could end up in jail as a result of these parasite sites," Tim Worstall wrote. He went on to question the current structure of the law, saying — in spite of the problem of child pornography — that those governing images of youth have been unduly influenced by "a social hysteria over child pornography and paedophilia. And as is usual in such hysterias reactions desperately overshoot."