Navy criminal investigators are looking at a popular Navy-themed Facebook page after a former female sailor complained about a photo posted of her that prompted a stream of threats and online sexual harassment, Navy officials said.
The photo was posted Wednesday to “S--t my LPO says,” or SMLPOS, a public Facebook group.
The photo featured the former sailor in her Navy uniform and the image was emblazoned with a porn company’s logo.
The woman, who asked to be identified only as “Maria,” said she woke up Wednesday to “tons of messages from people I served with…saying, ‘you’re on this website.’”
The photo had been shared 80 times, had about 1,400 likes and more than 180 mostly mocking and lewd comments as of Thursday afternoon.
“I was shaking,” the 31-year-old said. “I was so scared.”
She said she contacted the group’s administrators and asked them to take the photo down, but they refused.
In response to a query from Navy Times on Thursday, the administrator answering the page’s messages said the group was planning on removing the image “eventually.”
Navy officials told Navy Times Thursday that the issue would be referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for further review.
“We are taking the contents of the post very seriously and will investigate fully,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Ashley Hockycko said in an email.
Concern about online sexual harassment has drawn attention from the military’s top brass this year after a scandal in March involving a Marine Corps-themed group known as Marines United. The group, run by current and former Marines, was distributing nude photos of female Marines, frequently accompanied by harassing or violent comments.
The military branches have enacted new rules specifically prohibiting online sexual harassment and posting of photos without consent.
Some Marines allegedly advocated sexual violence. Some want the combat veteran who exposed them to be killed.
As of late Thursday afternoon, the image was listed twice in the group’s photos.
Most of the comments were hateful, violent and sexual, Maria said, while the few who stood up for her were “obliterated” by the others.
“This page is going to be the next Marines United,” one photo commentator wrote on the SMLPOS page, referring to the previous social media scandal.
Screenshots of Maria’s correspondence with the page’s administrator asking them to remove the image was provided to Navy Times.
The only reply she initially received was a laughing emoji.
At least one other image on the group’s page features correspondence where someone else asks the administrator to remove a private photo.
That request was also met with a laughing emoji.
The page administrator later wrote Maria back, stating, “don’t worry, someone else already saved the world and shared it to the CNO,” according to a screenshot.
An image was posted in the comment threads that appears to show someone sharing the photo’s link to the Facebook timeline of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.
Navy officials said Thursday that the CNO’s page does not allow sharing on his timeline and that they found no record of the post on his page.
The user who posted the screenshot of the purported CNO timeline post no longer shows up in a Facebook search.
“This is not ok by any means and some of the comments are sailors,” the purported post to the CNO states. “I’m passing this to you because I don’t know who else to give it to that would actually take this type of thing as serious as you do.”
An interim revision to Navy regulations prohibits Navy and Marine Corps personnel from posting intimate photos “if the person making the distribution or broadcast does so without legal justification or excuse,” the regulation reads.
The SMLPOS page later posted a screenshot of that quote, prompting about 300 comments as of Thursday afternoon.
“What a f---ing b--ch,” a Facebook user whose profile name is Leo Pascal Arciniega wrote. “This type of s--t is what causes ‘accidents’ to happen in certain units.”
Clicking Arciniega’s name leads to a profile featuring a photo of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis while he was still in uniform.
Maria said she does not know how SMLPOS got a hold of the photo of her in uniform, which she said was taken a few years ago during training on the range.
“Somewhere there’s a mole, I think,” she said of her Facebook friends, who include former military colleagues. “I thought I had everything set to where only my friends can see things.”
On Thursday, people began posting other photos from her personal profile in the original photo’s comment thread, she said.
“I’m reading these comments, and they’re growing,” she said. “And the shares are growing.”
One Facebook user whose profile name is Sean Malloy posted a photo of Maria in civilian garb and commented, “sexually assaulted really?”
She said he is not one of her Facebook friends.
“They are stealing my photos,” she said.
Some of those commenting appear to wonder why the photo is an issue.
“It’s clear civilians who didn’t serve don’t understand military humor culture,” one user wrote. “Anything is on the table that’s military related. Higher ups in the Chain of Command and [senior non-commissioned officers] only police this [s--t] cause of butt hurt snowflakes and current Polictial [sic] Correctness.”
Other comments veer into the lewd.
“She looks like she enjoys a good double stuff,” a Facebook user whose profile name is Arcides Cruz wrote. His profile lists him as a “mercenary.”
“She is going to get a face full of fluid just not OC spray,” a Facebook user whose profile name is Bill Kreutzkamp wrote. Kreutzkamp’s profile states he is a Coast Guard damage controlman.
“Reminds me of the white girl we had on the ridge,” a Facebook user whose profile name is Justin Dupuis wrote. “I think she went thru the entire F.A.S.T. that was onboard. Come back to Yoko and they would go in her room in twos.”
The Navy issued “social media conduct” guidance in March, urging anyone who has had photos taken or posted without their consent to contact the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“I’mma [sic] repost the s--t out of it,” a Facebook user whose profile name is Corban Westmoreland wrote. “Suck my dd214.”