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Queensland criminalises revenge porn

‘Porn’ is enough of a four letter word without adding ‘revenge’ to front of it.

In case you are lucky enough to have missed this disturbing new trend, ‘revenge porn’ is often just a fancy way of saying ‘extortion’ or ‘blackmail’. It is the practice of obtaining – through consensual or non-consensual means – sexual images of another person, and using them to hurt, embarrass, or control. For example:

Jill sends an explicit photo to Jack during a romantic period. Unfortunately, as is the case with some relationships, the spark goes out and things turn sour. Jack decides to ‘get one back’ at Jill by sharing – or threatening to share – the sexual materials she trusted him with in an act of revenge. Perhaps with her new partner. Perhaps with his friends. Perhaps anonymously online.

Other times – and perhaps even more sickeningly – people can acquire the explicit materials non-consensually. They may be stolen from from your private files, or even taken without your knowledge.

With cases of children, teens and adults falling victim to this disgusting act appearing more and more frequently, there is no doubt that revenge porn is a serious issue across the world. And the Queensland government has decided to take a noble stand.


The Queensland government’s new laws

On Monday, August 20, 2018, laws were proposed that would make revenge porn a criminal offence in Queensland.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath has introduced the Criminal Code (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Amendment Bill 2018, which proposes a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment for the ‘non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit materials of another person’. This follows her election promise to address the issue.

As Mrs D’Ath says in her recent media release, “These laws would apply to both sending, and threatening to send, intimate material without consent… The Bill also allows courts to make a rectification order – the images must be removed or deleted, and if they aren’t a person faces a two-year jail term.”

“Revenge porn is a horrible violation, designed to humiliate, and it speaks volumes about the person sharing the image… It is time for us to step in because this behaviour isn’t just abhorrent, it is criminal.”


The scale of the issue

These new laws have come at just the right time. The scale of the issue has been quietly building over the years, and up until now, not much has, or could, be done to stop it.

Many have tried to address this in the past by encouraging people not to share explicit materials of themselves online. While this is great advice – and we recommend everyone follow it – unfortunately it doesn’t do much to help the victims but make them feel responsible for the actions of others.

“We also know that while sharing intimate images can affect anyone, it disproportionately affects women and girls,” Mrs D’ath added, however this is not correct.

It’s a common misconception that women are the primary victims of revenge porn. In fact, studies have shown that men and women share the burden equally. More so, one in five people across Australia have suffered from image-based abuse at some point in their lives. (Those interested can read the full survey analysis here). According to the study, marginalised groups – most prominently lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals – are especially vulnerable.

This only makes these new laws more important to the Australian community.


Photo doctoring

The issues of revenge porn goes further still. With photo editing and ‘Deep Fake’ technologies, pornographic images and videos can be doctored to make them appear as though a victim is taking part, even if they’re not. Mrs D’Ath also addressed this in her statement and proposed amendment:

“The definition will extend to photoshopped images – where an image has been altered to look like a person is portrayed in an intimate way.”

Doctoring other people into pornographic materials has become quite a trend this year. There are even services that promise to do the editing for you, allowing you to insert your own face into your favourite ‘scenes’. This is, of course, this is extremely dangerous. How do these companies ensure that they are not adding others into videos against their consent? Worryingly, it is now possible for predators to create the very content they use to hold revenge porn victims ransom with. You can no longer assume you are safe simply because you have never engaged in sexting – which only makes these new laws even more timely and appropriate.

To discourage this type of practice, under new laws, sharing these ‘fake’ materials will hold the same penalties as any other revenge porn abuses.


Kids at risk

Most concerning to parents and guardians, of course, is how revenge porn impacts kids.

Shockingly 30.9% of people aged 16 to 19 have been victims of revenge porn.  Mrs D’Ath made it abundantly clear that the new Queensland laws would work to give young people as much protection as possible.

The new bill states that distributing an intimate image of another person without that person’s consent is now a criminal offence, and the issue of what does and does not constitute ‘consent’ is taken very seriously. Particularly for those under the age of 16.

As Mrs D’Ath states (page 35):

“The bill defines consent for the purpose of the new offence to confirm that consent must be free and voluntary and given by a person with cognitive capacity to consent. In recognition of the greater vulnerability of young children, the bill provides that a child under 16 years of age cannot consent to the distribution of an intimate image.”

This is yet further reason to educate children on the dangers of sexting. We have written about this before at Internet Safe education in our article The consequences of sexting – Educating our children. Children cannot consent to the sharing of any explicit images of themselves – even if they are the ones sharing it. Those who do are in fact spreading child exploitative materials

At Internet Safe Education, we think we can speak on behalf of the wider community when we give our sincere applause to Hon Yvette D’Ath for her commitment to keeping all Australians safe from online predators, and taking the steps to put much-needed consequences on this disturbing new trend.

For more information on keeping the children in your care safe we recommend downloading a free copy of our handbook, ‘5 Principles to stay safe online’, or taking a look at some of the presentations we offer to help give students of all ages around Australia the tools they need to protect themselves in the online world.