“Digital Kidnapping” Trend Is All Over Social Media

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“Just when you thought the Internet couldn’t get any creepier, there is apparently a disturbing trend going on called “digital kidnapping.” And if that phrase is new to you, allow me to fully weird you out some more: “Digital kidnapping” is when strangers steal baby photos and repost them across the Internet. Sometimes, these virtual photo thieves will pass the snapshots off as their own.

But other times, it goes one step further. On Instagram, for example, accounts are being set up specifically to encourage others to join in on “adoption role playing,” inventing new identities for each child and inviting users to chime in.

I’ll freely admit, I had never heard about this trend before this morning. But after poking around Instagram for all of 10 minutes, I am officially sick to my stomach. While the bios on these accounts all portray them as “harmless,” I quickly saw for myself just how often they go to disturbingly dark places. Hashtags like #adoptionrp, #orphanrp, and #babyrp yield thousands of results, featuring photos of babies and toddlers, all without their parents’ knowledge.

Click into them at random, and you’ll see many photos feature captions fictionalizing the lives of each child — who, by the way, the poster has presumably never even met. “Name: Tommy,” reads one caption alongside a smiling baby. And then it gets weirder: “Loves: mommy, milk, being nakey, sucking items.” (*shudder*)

Scroll through the comments further, and you’ll soon wish you’d never even wandered into this sick virtual world — which Fast Company has dubbed “the creepiest new corner of Instagram.” Some commenters begin rather benignly, with things like “Hi, baby!” and “Hi cutie!” But they often quickly spiral into a truly uncomfortable — and inappropriate — mode of banter. So much so, that I honestly had to stop reading a few of them…”

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