“Why are you selling that dress if it looks so good on you?” Vinted and Wallapop become fodder for stalkers | Technology

“They even offered me 3,000 euros for a photo of me peeing,” says Tania, a user who actively maintains a profile on social networks. She does not have millions of followers, but every day she uploads photographs to both Instagram and the second-hand clothing buying and selling platform Vinted. Every day she receives harassing messages; sometimes covert and other times overt. This young woman has gotten into the habit of reading profane comments practically every time she opens one of her profiles, such as “how your channel makes me feel.”

Ana – fictitious name, at the express request of the interviewee – frequently sells clothes on Wallapop and also frequently receives messages disguised as flattery, but which hide obvious harassment. “Sorry, I couldn’t help it,” she receives in private after some icons of admiration. For her, the trigger was a conversation with a user after she published a photo of herself wearing a dress that she wanted to sell:

—Do you want the dress or not? —answers Ana, fed up.

—I just saw your dress and it looks great on you, sorry if I bothered you.

—Well yes, annoying.

Ana tries to reason with her interlocutor: “You’re trying to sell a dress and anyone thinks they have the right to give an unsolicited opinion,” but in the following messages he goes from flattery to open contempt: “Come on, maja, have a good day if your bitterness leaves you,” and he says goodbye calling her “self-conscious.” The young woman sends a last message that focuses on the obvious: “Surely you don’t send that message to a man, saying how well his pants fit.”

Vinted and Wallapop users they give more and more visibility to this harassment, which can degenerate into situations of real danger. “They come to meet you to buy you something, supposedly, and they get all slimy in person. It’s scary, very scary,” they write in Weloversizean Instagram account with nearly half a million followers.

The main trading platforms are aware of this problem. “We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to communicating in an unwanted or sexually explicit manner with anyone on Vinted,” they explain to EL PAÍS from this well-known fashion buying and selling site. From this platform it is stated that each complaint of harassment is investigated, “case by case”, and the harassed person is invited to “contact the Police” if the situation requires it.

Wallapop, the other major player in the sale and purchase of products, also offers the possibility of “reporting any offensive situation” through the application itself. From this platform, it is explained that its team dedicated to content supervision – known internally as Trust & Safety – currently “represents 8% of the workforce, monitors activity on the platform and has advanced tools such as artificial intelligence, to analyze the activity of profiles that could be potentially dangerous.”

Screenshots of Ana’s conversation on Wallapop.

Vinted and Wallapop users warn that what begins with an alleged compliment, after an apparently innocent exchange of messages, can end in obscene proposals in exchange for money. Tania rejected the strange offer to film herself urinating, but, she reflects, “what if they make the same proposal to a fifteen-year-old girl?”

The most frequent comments refer to physical and overtly sexual aspects: “You look so hot”, “what an ass you have” or “you make me very horny”. However, the tone of the messages takes a turn when the supposed flatterer feels rejection. “As soon as you reject them, they make offensive comments about your physique, like where are you going with that junkie face,” explains Tania.

What is hidden behind this behavior? “The key here is that they see harassment as an acquired right. They believe that they have the right to demand that women respond to their needs,” explains psychologist Joan Salvador Villalonga. This expert alludes to a culture of submission in which “their superior position is recognized: they base their masculinity on domination.” It is for this reason that, when rejection comes, “they react badly and even go so far as to deceive themselves, telling themselves that ‘deep down, women like this’.” But the feeling experienced by someone who advertises a t-shirt and receives a barrage of sexually charged or threatening messages is very different. “I feel disgusted, it repulses me,” Tania confesses.

Can these messages have a criminal consequence? Susana Gisbert, gender violence prosecutor, explains that “the implications depend on the content of the message and its frequency. If they are repetitive and insistent, to the point of causing consequences in their victims that make them change their routines or their daily lives, we could be facing the crime of harassment.”

What to do if you receive these types of messages

If someone encounters the unpleasant experience of receiving messages with sexual content after putting a piece of clothing up for sale (or on any social network), it is best to block the sender and report it to the service provider. “What I recommend is a preventive block,” recommends Tania, who also sometimes chooses to publicly expose the harasser. In this way, her followers can massively report this behavior and thus force the platform to take action.

Gisbert agrees: “My advice would be twofold: to ignore the message and block the contact and to inform the company of it, in addition to reporting it.” But at what point can these messages cross the border of legality and become a crime? Borja Adsuara, an expert lawyer in digital law, warns that the legislation is now less flexible with this type of behavior.

This expert highlights that “the regulation of harassment has changed due to the law of only yes is yes” and, in this sense, there may be a prison sentence. Adsuara cites article 172: “Anyone who harasses a person by persistently and repeatedly harassing a person will be punished with a prison sentence of three months to two years, or a fine of six to twenty-four months.” Of course, this expert emphasizes that there must be a bombardment of messages with insistence and reiteration.

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