The first photograph a mother took with her newborn son was recently stolen and incorporated into a satirical fake news story.
A beautiful photograph, isn't it?
This picture first appeared in an article published by Connecticut newspaper, the Milford Mirror on January 2, 2015. The image shows Karena Bennett and Elder Marroquin with their newborn son, Damon. As luck would have it, he was the first baby to be born at Milford hospital in the year 2015.
It has been over a year since Karena first shared that wonderful memory with her son.
That image has since resurfaced on the web, but in perhaps one of the ugliest ways possible.
According to a Facecrooks report, Karena recently received a Facebook notification from someone with whom she had lost touch.
22-year-old Karena thought it strange that someone from her past was reaching out to her, but she decided to click on the Facebook notification anyway. The notification linked to a story with the headline "Detroit Woman Gives Birth to Her 14th Child from 14 Different Fathers." To her horror, she was taken to a story with the headline "Detroit Woman Gives Birth to Her 14th Child from 14 Different Fathers", with the first photograph of her and Damon together as its featured image.
The fake news story was published on World News Daily Report, a satirical entertainment "news" site that comes with the following disclaimer (albeit under a large graphic claiming "News you can trust!"):
"WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle."
As you have probably guessed, the site appears to be strongly focused on publishing sensational "news" stories with the intention of generating income from its online adverts.
Sadly, the disclaimer wasn't enough to prevent thousands of people from commenting on the story and labelling Karena Bennett an irresponsible mother.
Karena described her distress to ABC News:
"I started getting more and more notifications on my Facebook. When people are really starting to make comments about your person, calling you ugly, calling you fat, those were the comments that really started to hurt me a lot. That’s where I started to break down, seeing comments from 30,000 people."
Since the satirical story came out, Bennet has taken it upon herself to try to figure out who stole the image. But that has proven an uphill battle. Several of the lawyers she has reached out to lack the expertise to address something which because of its online nature is nearly untraceable.
The mother is beginning to come to terms with the inevitability of the story's indefinite circulation. Her only hope is that it will not reflect poorly on her when she decides to go to back to school and search for a job as an ultrasound technician.
"I think I'm just living day by day"
We cannot help but wonder: could Karena have done anything differently to prevent this from happening? Unfortunately, it's not clear that anything could have helped. The image was stolen from an online news outlet, not any of her personal pages over which she has control.
If it's within their ability to do so, maybe news organizations should watermark or credit their images in some way to help prevent stories like Karena's from happening.
At the same time, ordinary users should be careful about what images they post on social media and should set their profiles to private to prevent bad actors from going through their personal photos.
Do you feel uncomfortable sharing photographs of your children online?