In a new online harassment campaign targeting women, people are photoshopping women's photos so they appear thinner and sharing the edited images on social media.
The photos of women, sometimes actors and models, are shared with the hashtag #SkinnyAcceptance by people claiming they aim to fight against "skinny-shaming" and those who they say "renounce exercise".
The campaign – titled "Project Harpoon" – originated on 4chan and Reddit. In recent years, the two online communities have frequently been the root of online harassment campaigns that target women.
Paulina, a 23-year-old freelance translator and model from London, was one of the women who had her photo edited by a stranger to make her appear slimmer.
The photo of Paulina's face and shoulders – used without her consent – had been shared on Facebook. The description read, "from depressed chub to elegant fox."
Paulina found out her image had been photoshopped after reading a blog post by Neon Moon Feminist Underwear, a company she had once modelled for. They had seen the project and noticed that Paulina's image had been used.
"I was utterly disappointed to find a photo of our model photoshopped unrealistically thin without any permission granted," Neon Moon's CEO and founder, Hayat Rachi, told BuzzFeed News. "A person's health cannot be determined from how a person looks. It's hate speech and body-shaming, and nothing to do with caring about health."
Despite the online abuse, Paulina was unfazed. She told BuzzFeed News: "To be perfectly honest, when I saw my photo, my first reaction was to laugh because they described me a 'depressed chub'. That couldn't be further from the truth!"
"I really love myself the way I am, so those comments didn't get to me at all," she added. "I am secure, and I'm a beautiful person, on the inside and out."
Although Paulina was able to shrug off the online hate, she recognises that many of the women who were targeted by the project may not feel the same way.
"When I thought about it longer, it got more upsetting – I was upset at the thought they were photoshopping our photos in the first place.
"Other women who were targeted may have been more affected, but they should know that they are beautiful just the way they are. They don't need to be photoshopped to fit some standard."
After it was reported, Paulina's picture was eventually taken down from Facebook. Facebook later removed the project page that hosted the women's photos.
Facebook couldn't provide a comment on "Project Harpoon", but a spokesperson did tell BuzzFeed News that pages are removed if they host images that appear to have been altered to degrade or shame private individuals.
Paulina says the project is "truly disgusting" and that the project is a clear form of online harassment.
"This is a form of online abuse, and it's a growing problem," she told BuzzFeed News. "I think these types of projects can be dangerous to girls, and hurtful. The objectification can be harmful to young women.
"They have no reason to do photoshop photos of us – they are people who have nothing better to do. Honestly, it just makes me feel sorry for them. They have a warped, twisted look at women and their image if they feel the need to do this."
Paulina wants young girls who may see these photoshopped images to know that they are "warped" depictions of women.
"You're all beautiful, not just on the outside," she said. "Remember to love and cherish yourself just as you are."
Update: "Project Harpoon" has been removed from Instagram and Facebook.
A person behind "Project Harpoon" – who didn't provide his real name – told BuzzFeed News:
"The intention behind it was to show how far the bar in society has been lowered, to the point where we need to 'accept obesity' over a healthy lifestyle. People overreact to everything nowadays and are too politicly correct to the point of personal destruction and censorship. This account was removed by Instagram for no reason at all. We didn't violate any of their 'terms' and in our point of view they were threatened of the amount of attention this account was receiving, both positive and negative. It was created to show that free speech is dead in the U.S.
We were promoting a healthy lifestyle and simply showing how great people could look if they trimmed a few pounds. This was not aimed at anyone with a disorder or meant to cause an unhealthy diet (such as eating disorders) to lose weight. This was simply meant to raise awareness that accepting/promoting obesity is not ok."
Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rossalyn Warren at email@example.com.
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