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The Law on Revenge Porn in Australia

A recent survey has revealed that one in five Australians have been victims of ‘revenge porn’.

‘Revenge porn’ refers to the growing phenomenon of people distributing nude, intimate, or sexually explicit images of their former partners, without the consent of the individual pictured.

In many cases, photos or videos are legally obtained during the relationship, and are then shared following a breakup. Other perpetrators hack the images and videos from their ex’s electronic devices.

After the images are obtained, they are used to control, abuse and humiliate people. The images are distributed between groups of friends through email and social media, or are posted on websites that allow such content to be posted and shared.

Australian women and men are increasingly becoming victims of revenge porn, with more than 350 complaints made to the office of the eSafety commissioner since October 2016.

 

Revenge porn laws in Australia:

There is no specific national law making the non-consensual distribution of nude, intimate or sexually explicit images a criminal offence, and the state and territory laws on revenge porn are patchy. Only Victoria, South Australia, and now Western Australia have legislation that makes revenge porn a criminal offence.

  • Nationally, people can be charged with ‘using a carriage service to cause offence or to harass or menace another person’ (section 474.17 of the Criminal Code), but it needs to be clear that the perpetrator intended to cause those impacts. There have been proposals to introduce new federal laws to address revenge porn.
  • In 2014 Victoria made it a criminal offence to maliciously distribute intimate images without the person’s consent. Offenders can face up to two years imprisonment for distributing images and up to a year for threatening to distribute images.
  • In South Australia it is a criminal offence to distributed an invasive image (which can include revenge porn offences).
  • As part of Western Australia’s major shake-up of family violence laws legislation has been passed to tackle revenge porn by a partner or a former partner. The new laws, which come into operation on 1 July 2017, allow restraining orders to be made to prevent a person from distributing or publishing intimate images of another person. Breach of such a restraining order will be a criminal offence and can attract up to two years in prison.
  • In other states and territories no specific criminal offences exist, and much older legislation created before the modern crime of revenge porn existed is relied on.

 

Beyond Australia:

Laws against revenge porn also vary across the world:

  • Revenge porn has been outlawed in many US states, making it illegal to distribute images that may cause lasting distress or damage without consent.
  • In 2014, Israel made revenge porn a sex crime with a sentence of up to five years in prison for posting a sexually explicit image or video online or across social media.
  • The German High Court ruled in 2014 that intimate photographs of partners should be deleted if a partner requests so.

 

What to do if you’ve been a victim of revenge porn:

If images of you have been shared without your consent, you should report it and seek legal advice, and look after yourself.

See the eSafety Commissioner’s information sheet on how to look after yourself if you have been the victim of image-based violence.

 

About the author:

This article has been authored by Claudia Giovannini at Lynn & Brown Lawyers.  Claudia is currently studying law at UWA and hopes to be admitted as a Perth lawyer in or about 2018.