Best Intention Derailed: Using Photos Out of Context Amounts to Abuse

Ed Yourdon’s tweet drew my attention to a rather disturbing article: Children Are Sold for Sex in America’s Capitol:

Guest blogger Melissa Snow of Shared Hope International discusses their new public awareness campaign to address child trafficking in street prostitution in Washington, DC.  Child sex trafficking happens all over our nation’s capitol, sometimes only steps from the White House and blocks from a symbol of the end of slavery — the Lincoln Memorial

It is a shocking article, and if indeed is true, then raising awareness is the right thing to do.  But the author stepped over the line with the photo she is using for illustration:

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

There is nothing wrong in using Flickr images with a Creative Commons licence, and the owner of the photo, Ed Yourdon is properly accredited.

But this is not just an image.  It’s a real girl, a living person with a face and name, who is quite recognizable by her family, friends, adversaries.  Using her in this article places her in the wrong context, implying that she is an (unwilling) child prostitute.   The author has no information about her, and Ed, who took the picture makes it clear he thinks it is the wrong context in a comment to the article.

The sad irony of the matter is that the author is clearly passionate about fighting childrens’ abuse – yet using this image in this context is a case of abuse in itself.