Over the weekend, a Snapchat story appeared on French social media. The full story is about five minutes long and appears to show two men sexually assaulting a young woman.
The Snapchat story begins with the two men, believed to be in their twenties — and whose faces remain hidden throughout the video — buying alcohol and taking it back to their apartment.
A woman, believed to be around 19 years old, appears in later clips.
The three listen to music and drink. And then at one point, one of the men begins groping the woman, until she pushes him off.
Then in later clips, the woman slouches in a chair. On the Snapchat caption, the uploader wrote "MDR stop stop stop," or "LOL stop stop stop," seemingly taunting the woman, who appears to become increasingly inebriated.
The Snapchat story then cuts to the woman on the ground with the men standing over her.
BuzzFeed News spoke to a young woman from Belgium named Clement Uytterelst who appears to be the first person to upload the video to public social media.
After publishing the video on her Facebook, Uytterelst told BuzzFeed News that she called the police.
"I posted the video thinking it was the right thing to do, because it had shocked me," Uytterelst said. "On Facebook, I asked people if they knew the two men and they sent me information via private messages. Many have contacted me to help. Names, Facebook profiles, neighborhoods where they would hang out. I transferred it to the police."
The video went viral within a few hours. Uytterelst said that it accumulated around 500,000 views before she deleted the video. She said she regrets putting it on Facebook.
"It was a mistake, the video has gone too far. People are so bad and some are commenting on the girl," she said. "I removed the video on Sunday around 7:30 p.m., but it was too late because many have taken it and it continues to circulate."
"Some people came to thank me for getting the names of the two men, their Facebook profiles," Uytterelst said. "But I also received a lot of threats and insults, especially from the near two men on the video."
Twitter users started spreading screenshots of the Snapchat story and the Facebook profiles believed to belong to the two men, appealing for witnesses and crowdsourcing information about them.
Twitter user @julienboulot told BuzzFeed News that he found the two men on Badoo, a chat app. "After having seen the information on Twitter, I thought I was going to look and found a lot of information in minutes. I wanted to denounce them," he said.
The swarm of attention created some confusion. Hashtags for #grigny and #perpignan — two different towns in France — started trending as users attempted to line up shots from the Snapchat story with screenshots of Google Street View.
Some Twitter uses were tweeting directly at the French national police, demanding they find the two men from the video.
French women's rights group Osez le Féminisme issued a statement saying that they believed the men should be charged with rape, as well as revenge porn — which is a criminal offense in France.
On Monday morning, law enforcement confirmed that two men suspected to behind the assault were arrested on Sunday morning in the town of Perpignan — before the internet manhunt started.
The woman who was assaulted was described as being in a state of shock and according to France Info, she doesn't remember anything about the attack.
One of the suspects was identified by police through his Facebook, and was already known to the police. Law enforcement did not confirm, however, whether the two men who were arrested were the same men being targeted by social media users.
The two suspects were questioned on suspicion of disseminating pornographic images on the internet and on suspicion of aggravated rape.
The French national police then warned on Monday that distributing the video is punishable by a fine and up to five years in prison.
The two suspects were charged and are currently in police custody. It was confirmed by the lawyers of one of the men that he was charged with rape and distribution of pornographic content on social networks.
Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Ryan Broderick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marie Kirschen est journaliste chez BuzzFeed News, France, et travaille depuis Paris.
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