eSafety Commission launches world-first online portal to fight “revenge porn”

If someone has shared an intimate photo of you without your consent – known as image-based abuse but sometimes called “revenge porn” – the Federal Government wants to help you get rid of it online.

Launched today by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, a new and world-first online portal hopes to empower victims, simplify the reporting process, and offer support.

“It’s sort of a one-stop-shop for victims of image-based abuse. They can come to the portal, decide what action they want to take or information they want to gather,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told Hack.

“They can report directly to the social media sites, report directly to us if they have a more complicated case – or want to know where there images are, as we’ve got some technologies that we’re using to help them identify where their images might be and to help them remove those images.”

The eSafety commission’s portal will be serviced by caseworkers who will be able to offer support to victims, inform them about the laws in their respective state or territory if they want to report the abuse to police, and help victims have their photos removed. Julie Inman Grant says this may involve reporting to a social media provider on behalf of the victim, or contacting international “revenge porn” sites to have the material removed.

 

“We’ve had experience with getting those images removed from sites overseas, I think there’s a little more heft when you’ve got a Government seal behind you, helping you,” Ms Inman Grant said.

Julie Inman Grant says victims had previously been failed by a lack of resources and knowledge of what to do when experiencing image-based abuse.

“That’s been the challenge – people have not known what to do when they experience this kind of abuse. Some people don’t identify as victims per se, they think that something can’t be done.

How common is image-based abuse?

Sharing intimate photos isn’t unusual: at least 55 per cent of 18-29 year olds surveyed by triple j last year said they had sent a naked selfie.

According to research commissioned by the eSafety Commission, sharing those photos without consent isn’t unusual either: 24 per cent of 18-24 year old women and 16 per cent of 18-24 year-old men have had an intimate photo shared without consent.

“One of the more disturbing things we came across was the community attitudes to image-based abuse,” Julie Inman Grant says, “We found through the survey that 67 per cent of adult Australians agreed with the statement, ‘People shouldn’t have taken the nude in the first place, even if they never sent it to anyone’.

“We do know that sexting is becoming more of a regular courtship ritual. So just by wagging our finger at young people and saying “don’t do it” isn’t necessarily an answer. Enforcing those values of respect, empathy and consent – those are very important.

“But also stressing to people that while it’s so easy to share an intimate image, the damage that can be done to the victim is incalculable.

“While some of this may be done maliciously, a lot of it may be done just carelessly or it was a bit of fun, without people really realising how truly devastating it can be to have your intimate images out there online.”

Julie Inman Grant says she hopes social media providers like Facebook and Instagram will do more work in curbing image-based abuse from appearing on their platforms.

“I think we need to continue to encourage all the social media sites to innovate and update their policies and practices and reporting procedures.”

You can access the Australian online portal here.