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Revenge Porn Outlawed In England And Wales

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Posting ‘revenge porn’ images and film online is to become a criminal offence and may result in a prison sentence

Revenge porn is becoming illegal in England and Wales after moves to make it a criminal offence in the two countries. Scotland And Northern Ireland are also considering similar laws.

So-called ‘revenge porn’ is an an Internet phenomenon in which disgruntled ex-boyfriends or girlfriends post intimate, often naked, pictures of their former partners online without their permission.

New Law

The process of making revenge porn illegal came after an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which was passed last year by the House of Lords. This amendment is set to receive Royal Assent later today.

Porn - Shutterstock - © jaymastWhat it means that anyone found guilty of distributing explicit images to force victims into sexual activity or to humiliate them will now face up to two years in prison. According to the BBC, the amendment covers images sent on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and those sent by text.

It cited information from eight police forces in England and Wales that kept data on this issue, which found that there had been 149 allegations of revenge porn made between 1 January 2012 and 1 July 2014.

The vast majority of victims were women, and six incidents resulted in police action. But until now, the only legal option for victims has been to make use of copyright law, because a the copyright of a “selfie” for example belongs to the taker of photo.

Without specific legislation, some have sought legal workarounds to have images taken down – most commonly the use of copyright law, since if an intimate picture has been taken as a “selfie”, the image’s copyright belongs to the taker.

Former culture secretary Maria Miller told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the law needed to change. She reportedly said: “By putting this in place the government has given young women the opportunity to protect themselves from their lives being blighted.”

“When you speak to the victims of these crimes, many say that it feels as if you’ve been virtually raped,” she is quoted as saying. “You can’t underestimate the impact of having an image distributed to many people around the world.”

Previous Cases

Across the pond in the United States, similar laws are being introduced in a number of US states, including California.

And last week the owner of a ‘revenge porn’ website, Kevin Bollaert, was found guilty of 27 counts (out of 31 charges), including identity theft and extortion, and he now faces up to 20 years in prison in America.

This is not the first time that ‘revenge porn’ has hit the headlines. In January 2013, US Internet hosting giant Go Daddy was implicated in a lawsuit targeting administrators of a ‘revenge porn’ sites.

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