Dating website regrets using Rehtaeh Parsons' photo in ad
Published Wednesday, September 18, 2013 7:25AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 18, 2013 10:25PM EDT
An administrator for an online dating website has apologized after using a photo of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons in an ad that appeared on Facebook, and has shut down the site.
The ad for ionechat.com featured a photo of Parsons under the heading ‘Find love in Canada’ -- and alongside a call for people to “Meet Canadian girls and women for friendship, dating or relationships.”
The story of Parsons’ suicide this year following an alleged sexual assault and the cyberbullying she endured made headlines around the world.
On Wednesday afternoon, a website administrator for ionechat.com emailed CTV News, saying it was an "accident" that Rehtaeh's image was used in the company’s ad.
"I simply used a tool to scrape images randomly on Google Images and inserted it into the [Facebook] ad campaign," Anh Dung said in an email, adding: "I sincerely apologize."
He said he was not aware of Rehteah's story, and "didn't know it was the victim's photo." The ionechat.com site on Wednesday afternoon was no longer operating.
Facebook on Tuesday said it banned ionechat.com from advertising on its website.
It said Parson's photo was an "extremely unfortunate" example of an advertiser taking an image from the Internet and using it in their advertising campaign.
"This is a gross violation of our ad policies and we have removed the ad and permanently deleted the advertiser's account," Facebook said in a statement.
"We apologize for any harm this has caused."
Meanwhile, Parsons' father Glen Canning said he was "bewildered and disgusted" by the ad.
"This is my daughter, Rehtaeh. They have her in an ad for meeting singles," Canning said in a statement posted on his website. "I don't even know what to say."
Rehteah Parsons was taken off life-support in April following a suicide attempt, which her family says was brought on by months of bullying following an alleged sexual assault.
Parsons' family said four boys sexually assaulted her when she was 15.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., teen was then said to have been mocked by classmates, and made to endure relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the alleged assault was circulated at school and on social media.
The RCMP said earlier this year that they looked into the allegations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo, but concluded that there weren’t sufficient grounds to lay charges.
A week after Parsons' death, police reopened their investigation saying they received new and credible information from someone who was willing to work with them.
In August, two Nova Scotia teens were charged with distributing child pornography in connection with Parsons' case.
The teens are scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 14.
The 17-year-old's death sparked outrage throughout the country and prompted the Nova Scotia government to pass the Cyber-Safety Act, which allows individuals to sue or seek a court order for protection if they or their children are being cyberbullied.