Virtual kidnapping of photos

A disturbing new internet trend could have people thinking twice before posting photos of their children and grandchildren online for the world to admire.

‘Virtual kidnapping’ is the phrase given to the trend where the photos of babies and young children are stolen and reposted onto social media by strangers, who claim the children as their own.

The trend has become a small subculture, comprising mostly of young women, who find and share photos and engage in role play. Using the hashtag #babyrp (baby role play), these people play a game of make-believe parenthood, discussing all manner of topics relating to the child, such as feeding, sleeping and baby health.

The pretend parents post the photos to websites such as Facebook and Instagram, with captions describing ‘their’ children and inviting others to comment. Facebook has said that the activity violates its standards, but will only remove the offending photo after the real owner has provided proof that the original belongs to them.

Another peculiar element of the trend is the websites that run as virtual adoption agencies. Those who operate the websites search the internet, looking for photos to steal and add to their agencies. Users can then bid to win their favourite photos, in an effort to build their perfect family.

This trend has sparked concern across the entire online social media community. Parents and grandparents are advised to be wary of posting photos of children to their accounts. There exists some grey area around the subject of digital theft, and policing of the issue is relatively tenuous.


Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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