'Roast Busters' part of a growing trend - NetSafe
NetSafe says it is seeing a growing number of cases of social media being used to "harm people", following the closure of an Auckland-based sexploitation Facebook page.
Last night 3 News revealed police had been monitoring the 'Roast Busters' for two-and-a-half years, but it wasn't until 3 News contacted Facebook that their page on the social networking site was taken down.
In videos uploaded to the internet, 17- and 18-year-old Auckland men brag about their sexual conquests, who are often drunk and underage. The teenagers also actively recruit new members.
"This is gang rape, full stop," says Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman Carol Beaumont.
"The fact that police have known for two years that these revolting individuals have been posting their 'exploits' on Facebook, and have identified victims as young as 13, but took no action, is astonishing."
NetSafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons says in the past, such bragging would have been limited to the men's immediate social group, but social media allows them to reach a much bigger audience.
"You have an idea and you want to spread it – that's fine if you're talking about the student army down in Christchurch, it's not so good when you're talking about the outcomes that these guys were intending," he said on Firstline this morning.
"You think about being a victim of something and only a few people knowing, that's bad enough. But when suddenly you start to find out that people you hardly know… or just huge numbers of people randomly are seeing it, that's got to be an even more distressing position to be in."
Police told 3 News they haven't been able to take action against the group – aside from a warning – because none of the victims have laid a formal complaint.
"We would love to take some positive action for these girls and others who may be victims in the future, but without actual evidence my hands are tied," says Detective Inspector Bruce Scott.
"None of the girls have been brave enough to make formal statements to us so we can take it to a prosecution stage or even consider a prosecution stage."
And the Roast Busters' Facebook page was allowed to stay online for similar reasons.
"These things obviously did breach Facebook's terms and conditions, but it takes somebody to see it and make that complaint in order for action to happen," says Mr Lyons.
That might not be the case in the future however, with the Government's Harmful Digital Communications Bill aiming to ease the process of taking down bullying and abusive content.
It's yet to have its first reading however, so in the meantime NetSafe suggests parents take a more proactive role in their children's digital lives.
"Keep the lines of communication open early, make sure you talk to your children about what it is they're doing and make sure they feel that they can come to you, or at least they can go to somebody, to get help when things get out of control – as clearly is the case for some of these girls."
Since being warned by the police, some of the Roast Busters are believed to have quit the group.
One former member this morning took to social media to express his remorse.
In a Facebook post, which cannot be verified, one of the men involved apologises for his actions.
"All the girls that have been effected by this whole ridiculousness I apologize [sic] and wish the best for you," he wrote.
"I just wanted to let people know that I made the video a while ago and I have defiantly [sic] made some major mistakes in my life I have really tried to make some dramatic changes to myself before I was even on the news."
He also took the opportunity to take responsibility for his part in the group.
"I have not been happy with who I have become and if I suffer any consequences from my past actions then I guess I deserve it but I just want people to know I am a good person at heart and I have matured and have taken this as a massive learning experience. I hope no one goes down the path I took and I hope people learn from my mistakes."
Women took to social media last night to express their views on the group, with one anti-Roast Busters Facebook page receiving more than 4200 likes overnight.
"What sort of men are these stupid immature little boys going to grow into?" wrote one upset Facebook user. "I truly hope they do not father children, especially girls!"
"What a bunch of f**king losers," wrote another. "Hope one of the girls can pick up the courage to make a formal statement."
Others took to Twitter to express their disgust.
"Their stupidity pisses meeh (sic) off! Yes, of course you'll be known, BUT for all the wrong reasons! #RoastBusters," one young girl wrote.
Another wrote: "#roastbusters absolute losers. The girls want them? No."
"#roastbusters grow up, get checked and have some dignity. Little boys trying to play big games," said another.