What is revenge porn?

 

Thanks to the availability of apps like Facebook and Instagram, sharing content online has become second nature. But there’s a dark side to this trend too – revenge porn.

Sadly, as internet-connected technology becomes more freely available, this phenomenon is on the rise. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

 

What is revenge porn?

It involves someone posting explicit photos and/or videos of someone else online against their wishes. This includes both images and videos obtained without the victim’s consent (i.e. using hidden cameras or by hacking their devices) and those obtained within the context of an intimate relationship.

Why is it called revenge porn?

Due to a string of court cases in which embittered lovers posted photos and videos of their ex-partners without their consent. These exes were motivated by a desire to cause their former partners emotional distress as revenge for some slight – either real or perceived – that they committed against them. However, it doesn’t only cover ex-lovers. It also includes content obtained without the victim’s consent at the time. Hence a more accurate – though less catchy – term would be non-consensual pornography.

Is it illegal?

It is. A law came into force in 2015, declaring it a criminal offence. It carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. In the first year of the law being enacted, more than 200 people were prosecuted in England and Wales. However, the problem is far more widespread. According to a BBC Freedom of Information request from 31 police forces, there were 1,160 reported incidents of revenge porn between April and December 2015, with some victims as young as 11. But 61 per cent of cases resulted in no action being taken against the alleged perpetrator.

Where are the images posted?

They can be posted on social media, though services like Facebook and Twitter are clamping down on the practice. They can also be posted on forums and other less well-regulated areas of the internet, where they can remain for longer.

How can you avoid becoming a victim?

Don’t send anyone explicit images of yourself, or let anyone take such images of you. Also, always keep your software up to date to avoid hackers being able to access the webcam on your computer or cameras on your phone/tablet. Talk to your children to make sure they’re following the same advice, and not speaking to strangers online.

What should you do if you are a victim?

Report it to the website/social network on which the images were published (here are the links for Facebook,  Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Twitter). Take a screenshot to preserve the images for use as evidence, then contact the police. You should also consider hiring a dedicated takedown service – these track where the images have appeared elsewhere online, and scrub every trace of them from the internet.

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