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Online dating is now ingrained as a part of our social landscape. People are meeting and falling in love and the stigma that was once attached has all but gone. But what are the risks when dating online and what behaviour could get you into trouble?

While it’s becoming the norm for singles to use online dating services and apps, people still need to be aware of the potential consequences if they do not use the services as they are intended. Just because you're online, it doesn't mean you're immune to the law.

If you engage in inappropriate behaviour both online and in person, you could be charged with a criminal offence.

In Australia, there are specific laws that protect people if they are harassed by someone using an electronic device.

Whether it’s Tinder or eHarmony, when two people begin conversing online it’s important that they are mindful of language and tone and there are very serious consequences if someone is found to be harassing another person.

Criminal offences that can relate to online dating include:

Domestic/restraining orders

Laws vary from state-to-state but generaly they are there to protect you from someone who is not a family member but with whom you have had an intimate personal relationship.

Stalking

Again, it's wise to check the regulations in your own state, but as a general principle, when a person pursues another person – even with that contact is online – with the intent to intimidate that person, it could be an offence.

Revenge porn

Disgruntled former partners have been known to post or threaten to post inappropriate photos online. People need to be aware that this sort of conduct is actually illegal and can result in very serious criminal charges, even if they delete the post.

In Victoria and South Australia there are specific state-based laws to deal with revenge porn. In these states it is against the law to distribute an explicit image without the consent of the person. The penalty is up to two years imprisonment.

Unfortunately with the increasing usage of cloud technology and the ability to share across multiple online platforms, it is harder to be confident that photographs and electronic data have been completely removed.

Sexting

Sending graphic text messages or starting an explicit discussion online that is not welcomed by the recipient can lead to potential criminal charges. Under the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), if a person uses a computer, a mobile phone or even a mobile app to offend or harass someone, the maximum penalty carries three years imprisonment.

At the end of the day common sense must prevail for anyone going online to find their Mr or Ms Right.

The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.

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