The good, the bad and the downright ugly – When revenge porn strikes at your online profile

Posted by Malcolm Campbell on 11 September 2014

With the evolution of the internet and the proliferation of the use of smart phones and tablets, the ability to access social media sites easily by the public at all times of the day has seen communication within friendship and business groups flourish. Whilst most people access information and communications for the right reasons, the opportunity to spread information and images by those wanting to embarrass, harass or blackmail their victims has also proliferated. The struggle our lawmakers have been faced with is dealing with outdated cyber laws which have failed to keep pace with the rapid growth of the use and abilities of the mobile computers we now carry around with us on a daily basis as part of our normal lives.

The evolution of the internet and the devices we use to access it have seen the proliferation of people taking, sharing and in some cases stealing images of a most intimate and potentially embarrassing nature. The last week alone has seen international headlines about the hacking of iCloud user profiles of numerous people including international celebrities containing sexually explicit photos and videos. In recent years there has been a huge increase in cases of embarrassing images being ‘leaked’ onto the internet.

So, what can be done when a jilted partner decides they will get back at a former lover by posting explicit images online through mediums such as Facebook? What happens when they are then used against you to embarrass, harass or even blackmail?

A lot turns of the circumstances of how and when the photo/videos were taken, who took them and how they have been used or reproduced.

For many of the victims, stopping the proliferation or existence of the images is a long and sometimes fruitless task. Websites based overseas offer little assistance and care none for the victim who struggles to find any avenue for contact with a website administrator who can assist with the removal of their images. These websites often sit outside of our legal system and cannot be readily made accountable by the average person. Even after the images are removed from specific websites they can linger in the search results for a number of search engines. It is often too late once the images are taken down as the damage has been done often leaving people’s lives in tatters. There are now a number of support groups in existence who offer guidance and support for people who have been affected by such attacks.

In some instances there are avenues for pursuing civil proceedings against the perpetrators seeking injunctions to take down and not republish the images and for damages for the loss suffered. However, such proceedings are often slow and very costly to run.

There is also currently very little support from our criminal legal system. Victoria is the first and only state in Australia to look at the issue of online postings of explicit images or videos without consent and to make “revenge-porn” illegal through the modification of existing sexting laws. It is now illegal in Victoria to publish or send nude pictures of someone without their consent.

However, what is being done in other states? The federal opposition said it would be willing to consider new legislation if evidence emerges that the existing laws do not offer protection of victims. The Attorney-General’s Department however, claims police have the power to prosecute revenge pornographers through the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 which makes it an offence to menace, harass or offend another individual via the internet with a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. To date, though the instants of revenge porn are increasing, there have been no Australian prosecutions for posting explicit images or malicious repostings.

If you are the subject of an online attack by way of images or videos of you being published without your consent, act fast. Do not delay in taking action as the longer they remain on online the further they can spread and the harder t becomes to remove them entirely. Seek out technical IT and Legal advice immediately. You should also contact the Police as they may be prepared to assist you.

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