Most of the people on Flickr are a friendly sort. They’re helpful and chatty, and they usually have something nice to say about your pictures.
Most of them.
Like anywhere though, you do get the odd creep sneaking in.
Here are six true stories that should make you just a little bit scared next time you’re uploading your vacation pictures to Flickr.
Stalked by Fetishists!
Flickr has a block option that lets members stop strange people from contacting them. What it doesn’t have is a way to stop those strange people from signing up with a different username and doing it all over again.
And some of those people really are strange.
Kriegerinhummel, for example, complained in April 2007 that someone was leaving “disturbing ‘foot fetish/sexually suggestive’ comments” on her pictures and Flickrmailing her seven times a day. He wanted to be a friend, apparently.
Flickr, it seems, can’t block users at the IP level in case it cuts out lots of other users (on a college computer, for example). Instead, the site recommends restricting comments to friends and hitting the Report Abuse button each time it happens.
It’s not much of a solution but it is a pretty good warning against leaving too much personal information on your Flickr page.
Dead Cats Sent Through Flickr
Blocking did work for TestyCatLady in April 2007. Known for her love of cats — and for showing plenty of pictures of them in her Flickr stream — she wasn’t too pleased when someone started to send her group, Crazy Cat People, their pictures of moggies… in various stages of rigor mortis.
She deleted the dead cat lover’s images and banned them.
Staff’s response? Don’t mention the sender’s name in the Help forums but do hit the Report Abuse button.
Hacked by Spammers
TestyCatLady was lucky. It didn’t take much to drive away her creepy pest. Lisa Kettel though was left with a real fight after some horrible hacker broke into her Flickr page, placed an offensive picture then used her Flickrmail to spam other members asking for pictures of naked women.
Lisa and the hacker then battled for control of her pro account, a struggle that only ended after the hacker had deleted her photos, testimonials and contacts.
The suspicion was that he might have been using a Trojan to log Lisa’s keystrokes and track her password changes.
Spammed by Spammers
When loupiote (Old Skool) found a long list of similar, bland comments on his photos, posted by people with names like “a5pegDe64qo” and “af8da17Xmn,” he knew what was coming.
It wasn’t long before those random strings of Yahoo! usernames weren’t just telling him what great shots he’d taken. They were also recommending that he visit a certain website where presumably he could buy cheap meds, play poker or become more of a man.
The people at Flickr were pretty quick at wiping out the first set of spam messages but struggled to clear them from the comments on loupiote (Old Skool)’s sets rather than on the images themselves, and because the tests didn’t contain URLs, they kept slipping under Flickr’s filters. The messages continued to show in the Recent Activity list… and they kept coming in, filling loupiote (Old Skool)’s comment space faster than he could block or report them.
“Each new wave teaches us something and we calibrate our proactive and reactive responses. Your patience is appreciated while we adapt to this latest wave. We hate spam as much as you do.”
Not as unpleasant as pictures of dead cats but still very annoying.
She’s Copying Me!
We’ve all heard the story of the freaky roommate who starts dressing like you, talking like you, tries to muscle in on your friends and generally freaks you out.
Kristi Bogel had that experience on Flickr.
Each time she posted a new photo, someone she knew would post an image that looked almost exactly the same.
After the fourth time her photos sparked something that was more like imitation than inspiration, she asked other Flickr members what she could do. Responses ranged from nothing through Report Abuse to “put up pictures of her boyfriend and her house.”
It could just have been a bit of a teenage tiff, but definitely not the sort of person you want to rent an apartment with.
Pedophiles on Flickr
Perhaps the scariest creeps of all on Flickr though are the people who post no photos or profile details but who have a long list of favorites… all of them featuring children.
It’s a complaint that crops up with disturbing regularity in the Flickr help forum. Citykitty, for example, describes how one user added her as a contact, only to find that his favorites consisted of a long list of images containing young boys. Flickr icon, Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, had a similar complaint after finding someone had marked photos of her children as favorites… and that all his favorites were pictures of children.
Flickr responded my extending the power of the “ignore” feature to prevent blocked users from adding users’ images as faves.
Of course, none of this means that Flickr isn’t a good place to hang out and show off what you’ve been pointing your camera or your iPhone at. But it does mean you have to be just a bit careful if you don’t want to be stalked, hacked, harassed or creeped out.