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Tackling revenge porn

Tackling revenge porn

By Emily Scott

Civil Rights Communication Video Recordings Young Persons 


Due to the rapid increase in image sharing platforms, advances in technology and globalisation, revenge porn has become an unfortunate buzzword in recent years. Revenge porn is defined as the exploitative sharing of the private sexual material of a person without their consent, with the intention of causing that person harm. It is apparent that the phenomenon has become a significant issue in Australia. As demonstrated by a survey conducted at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), one in 10 Australians have had a nude or semi-nude image of them distributed online or sent to others without their consent.1 It goes without saying that the non-consensual sharing of private sexual images can cause a victim significant trauma, and it has become apparent that the existing legal framework is inadequate to provide redress. As a result, there have been widespread calls for the government to greater regulate this area. An attempt to introduce a Bill in 2015 prompted the Australian parliament to conduct an inquiry into revenge porn earlier last year, inviting submissions from interested parties. While some states have laws in place to combat revenge porn, the results of the inquiry made it clear that what is needed is a consistent and uniform approach. Accordingly, the Criminal Code Amendment (Private Sexual Material) Bill 2016 (Cth) was introduced to the House of Representatives on 17 October 2016. In essence, the Bill amends the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) and inserts three new telecommunications offences as follows: using a carriage service to distribute, publish etc private sexual material of a person without that person’s consent, where this causes distress or harm or a risk of distress or harm to that person (s474.24E) using a carriage service to make a threat about private sexual material (s474.24F) possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining private sexual material for use through a carriage service (s474.24G). Importantly, in relation to all three offences, “private sexual material” is defined as material that: depicts a person who is engaged in or appears to be engaged in a sexual activity a person in a manner or context that is sexual a sexual organ or anal region of a person the breasts of a person who is female, transgender or intersex who identifies as female a reasonable person in the position of the person depicted would expect that the material be kept private (s474.24D). This definition is intended to allow for cultural factors that may impact upon whether content ought to be defined as private sexual material. For example, the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill indicates that an image of a Muslim woman without her headscarf may be captured by this definition. An offence under ss 474.24E or 474.24F attracts a penalty of three years imprisonment, while an offence under s424.24G attracts a penalty of five years imprisonment. At this stage, no more amendments have been put forward and we await the further passage of the Bill. It remains to be seen what the impact of this Bill will be, and it is difficult to say whether it will adequately address the current hiatus in the law. Certainly, this is not the first challenge confronting lawmakers in the technological arms race, and we are likely to see many more developments brought about in these circumstances. What do you think about the proposed new penalties? The LIV invites your comments. Emily Scott is a legal trainee at TressCox Lawyers. 1. Anastasia Powell and Nicola Henry, “Digital Harassment and Abuse of Adult Australians: A Summary Report”, (2015) Tech & Me Project, RMIT University, p2.

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