Video: Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents are furious her image was used to advertise a dating website on Facebook. Ross Lord reports.
HALIFAX – The family of Rehtaeh Parsons says they are “sick” and “disgusted” that a dating website used their daughter’s picture in their advertisements.
The ads for ionechat.com began showing up on Facebook on Tuesday.
They featured pictures of the Cole Harbour teen alongside the words “Find love in Canada! Meet Canadian girls and women for friendship, dating or relationships. Sign up now!”
Parsons, 17, was taken off life support in April after attempting to take her own life following an alleged sexual assault and relentless online bullying.
Parsons’ father Glen Canning called the ads tasteless and sick.
“That’s just disgusting to do something like that considering the circumstances of her death, where she was bullied and tormented online over a photo. Now you have some company do it in an advertisement on Facebook. It’s inexcusable. I really am absolutely lost for words,” he said.
“I’m disgusted,” Leah Parsons told Global News.
Leah said she became aware of the ads Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re constantly reliving the nightmare over and over again.”
Canning said he has not yet been able to reach out to the website, but if he did, he would not know where to begin to describe his outrage.
“I don’t think this was some accident. I think this was just someone doing something…to see how many people they could all of a sudden get to their website or doing something outrageous just for hits and visitors,” he said.
He added that the ads compound what has already been a tough year for the family.
“It’s just one thing after another. Is there anyone else who is going to just drag her name through the mud?”
Watch: Global News’ “The Morning Show” talks about what you should be teaching your children when it comes to pictures posted on social media
Late Tuesday night, a website administrator told Global News that the image of Rehtaeh was taken from “Google Images randomly”.
“I [used] it accidentally because I [didn't] know about the story [that happened] with the woman,” Anh Dung wrote.
Dung called the incident the “biggest mistake” he’s ever made and that he felt sorry when he learned Rehtaeh’s story.
His full statement to Global News on Wednesday revealed he had taken down his website:
The website is no longer working because I shut it down, I feel so guilty when I think of it and I don’t want to run it anymore, it’s just a simple site with 2 pages that I use to promote dating offer to make some money. I did not expect it to cause serious consequences. I feel very sorry for my mistake.
I’m so stressed right now so I can’t talk anymore.
Facebook has also apologized for any harm that the ad has caused. The company sent the following statement to Global News:
“This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image and using it in their ad campaign. This is a gross violation of our ad policies and we have removed the ad and permanently deleted the advertiser’s account.”
Parsons’ death prompted a review of how RCMP and the school board handled the case. Cyberbullying legislation was officially put in place in Nova Scotia in August; it gives victims the ability to sue cyberbullies and their parents, if the accused are minors.
© Shaw Media, 2013