A Viral Tweet Stole Fetish Model's Photos, Told Fake Domestic Abuse Story to Sell Skinny Tea

Twitter suspended the account, but not until it got 77,000 retweets and 330,000 likes.

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Sep 18 2018, 6:17pm

Image: Therma Trim 

“Ashley” joined Twitter in June of 2017. Her bio says “I’m addicted to donuts and milkshakes,” and her cover image is a wallpaper of cute illustrated donuts. Every few days she posts a photo of a decadent meal—or her nails, holding candy.

But she didn’t send her first tweet until more than a year after she joined Twitter, on Saturday. She started a personal, detailed thread about a toxic past relationship.

She wrote about how her ex controlled and manipulated her into gaining a lot of weight over the course of their relationship in the name of “feederism,” and details the abuse alongside photos and videos of her body. Feederism is a sexual fetish where someone eats a huge volume of food, and shows off the bloating or weight gain that follows.

By the end of the story, Ashley is promoting something called Therma Trim, a detox product or “skinny tea” that’s popular on Instagram. She posts before and after pictures to prove what an impact the product has had on her life. It becomes clear that the entire story is marketing for this tea. But people continued to share and quote the first tweet of the thread, adding comments like “THIS RIGHT HERE YALLLLLL!!!!” and “Never seen something so accurate” or responding with their own stories of abusive relationships.

Ashley’s thread went viral over the weekend, with more than 330,000 likes and 77,000 retweets. But none of these images are actually of her. They belong to a cam model who actually specializes in feederism, according to the model’s blog, which Motherboard reviewed. (Motherboard has left out images from this thread, to protect the privacy of the model whose photos were stolen.)

The "Ashley" account was suspended less than two hours after I contacted Twitter to ask whether this account violates the platform's rules impersonation rules.

“One of my favorite pair of shorts stopped fitting and it was so frustrating trying to find anything to wear!” Ashley’s account tweeted, with a video of a woman trying to put on a pair of too-small shorts. The video is clipped from a video of that cam model.

The real person behind these images seems to be pissed. It’s not the first time someone’s taken her images without permission, she told me in a Twitter direct message, but it is the first time someone's gotten any amount of traction and attention from them. The images of her weight loss are actually a result of a fight with anorexia and cocaine—which is where the account got the "after" photos from.

She went on to tell me that they're likely taken from a database website where other people posted photos from her camming. She said she doesn't mind that they're on the database, because it's a niche website for people interested in the fetish, unlike Twitter.

"I tried to contact [@ashleyeats] but they blocked me smh," the model told me. "The whole situation has really freaked with my sense of privacy and paranoia, because this fetish is VERY private to me and taboo to the rest of the world really. I’ve had multiple of my friends send me the thread and I had to tell them about what I’ve been doing and all in all, it’s really embarrassing."

The implications of nonconsensually outing a sex worker for any reason can be disastrous. The model wrote in her blog post that after the tweet went viral, people outside of her work as a cam model saw it and recognized her. She explicitly says she wanted to keep her camming private—but this viral tweet destroyed that. Beyond that, it’s a made-up story of domestic abuse that’s used for viral marketing.

The fact that all of this happened around a fake account hocking skinny tea is especially jarring and dystopian. We have no idea who is actually behind the account that tweeted it—I dmed the account but didn't receive a reply, and I did not receive a response to any of my questions when I reached a representative for Therma Trim.

Therma Trim is among the companies selling “fit tea” as a detox or weight loss product, like those that that pay celebrities to endorse them on Instagram. Most of the time, these teas are simply laxatives, but they can be dangerous for one’s health, especially for someone already struggling with disordered eating. While some herbal teas can be used occasionally to help ease constipation, the FDA has reported several deaths from laxative tea abuse.

Ashley tweeted that she was inspired to lose weight by a story she came across organically online—much in the same way she’s set other people up to see her story. A website called “HealthNews” (which appears to exist to sell skinny tea) claims that a woman tried Therma Trim and “was able to drop 25 pounds off her waist in 1 month without ever using a dime of her own money.” Therma Trim has also been called Prime Slim, but every promotional article about the product makes the same claims: That it will increase resting metabolism, flush out harmful toxins, boost energy and block fat production. The main ingredient that Therma Trim claims makes it product work is forskolin, which is sometimes used in weight loss supplements. There have only been small studies on forskolin for weight loss—and there's nowhere near enough evidence to prove that it works for weight management.

At the very least, impersonation is against Twitter’s rules, but as we saw with deepfakes, it’s often up to the victim to file complaints to get their stolen content taken down, and even then, they’re at the mercy of the platforms’ decision.

Ashley’s thread went viral because it’s using a common and incredibly painful abuse victim narrative—even if that specific victim doesn’t exist, many stories just like this do.