When AliceAnn Meyer discovered a photo of her 4-year-old son had been turned into a cruel meme, she vowed to fight tooth and nail until it was removed from social media sites.
Meyer was like any proud parent snapping a photo of her beautiful 4-year-old son after she caught him covered in marshmallow and chocolate while enjoying a snack. She has kept a blog called Jameson’s Journey since shortly after Jameson, the second of her three sons, was born and the family discovered he had Pfeiffer syndrome, a craniofacial syndrome in which the tissues and bones start and stop growing abnormally. To combat the side effects of his disorder, Jameson has already had two cranial vault surgeries, four sets of tubes placed in his ears, his tonsils and adenoids removed and a soft palate reconstruction to help with his sleep apnea.
Still, on the day she snapped the photo, he was an ordinary child in love with life and all the sweet treats it brings. Meyer posted the photo to her blog, where it exists alongside similar captures and stories about Jameson as well as informative facts about Pfeiffer syndrome. She didn’t think about it again.
The next thing she knew, Meyer discovered someone had taken the time to copy the image of Jameson from her website and doctored it to create a meme that compared the little boy to a pug. The coldhearted meme was then posted on Facebook, where it was shared 3,000 times and liked 5,000 times.
“I saw my sweet boy’s face smiling up at me in that picture,” Meyer says. “Then my stomach dropped a little. It was shocking and saddening to think someone took the time to do something like that.”
After digging around, Meyer discovered the meme appeared on six Facebook pages (three of which belonged to the same person, which is downright creepy), eight Instagram accounts, 10 or 11 times on Twitter and who knows how many times on 9GAG and Tumblr.
Still, an angry and protective mom has to start somewhere, so Meyer made it her mission to get Facebook to pull down the photo — and it proved to be a disappointing process.
“On Facebook, when you report something, a screen pops up encouraging to ask the person to remove it first,” Meyer says. “So, I did both. I reported it, but I also sent a private message to the poster. I didn’t get any response from him. After a day or so had gone by, I had sent him four PMs in addition to continuously reporting it. He never responded. When it was removed by Facebook, he posted it again, on a different page (same name) he had created. In addition to simply reporting, I filed our copyright claims with Facebook (all of the sites, actually). Each time I got an automated email with a ticket number. The first one took a while, and after not hearing anything for more than a day, I emailed the Facebook ‘agent’ and got a response saying the content would not be removed because the person posting it was using it for ‘commentary & criticism’ — this email message was from an actual person.”
After 24 hours, Meyer was successful in convincing Facebook to remove the photo of the minor, and the only good news to come out of her story is that both Instagram and Twitter were far more responsive — Twitter actually had the content removed within 20 minutes.
But her fight is far from over. Jameson’s Photoshopped image is still out there, and it haunts Meyer to know that her little boy, whom she describes as a Minion and Curious George-loving preschooler who likes technology, tablets, playing with his brothers in the park and cooking in the kitchen, is the butt of some cruel segment of the population’s joke.
“I plan to continue to report every picture I find,” Meyer says. “I will not stand by and do nothing if someone sends me a link to it. It is impossible for me to say I will hunt every single one down, but every one I find gets reported.”
Meyer says she reached out to a lawyer, but the cost was something that was not feasible. She would consider advocating the promotion of better privacy laws and is strongly in support of social media sites creating some sort of flag system that immediately removes the content being reported if it is a minor.
As of right now, Meyer counts thousands of compassionate followers of her blog among those ready and willing to stand behind her and help in her efforts to right this wrong that has been done to her family and her son. If even one person who would have laughed at an image of a real person before this story thinks twice before doing the same thing, her fight won’t be in vain.