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Where does the law stand on revenge porn?

in Criminal Law by Emma Aldersea on

As a criminal lawyer I am seeing cases of what is being described as “revenge porn” – a crime that involves disgruntled former partners posting and threatening to post inappropriate photos online of their ex-partners.

Recently we’ve also seen an example of nude photos of sport stars – sent privately over social media – released by the recipients to magazines for publication.

Revenge porn can become especially problematic when an individual’s compromising photos are copied and republished across the web by people unknown to the individual – making it almost impossible to remove all trace of the images.

Most people who engage in revenge porn act out of emotion – they are usually hurt and are motivated by a desire to get back at their partner – and more often than not they do not think through the consequences of their actions.

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. In Victoria it is against the law to threaten to distribute images and those found guilty can face a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment.

In other states, those responsible for posting inappropriate images of either adults or children online could also face Commonwealth charges.

Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code it is illegal to use a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence – using a carriage service includes threatening to post or posting material online. The penalty is a maximum three years imprisonment if the victim is an adult and up to 15 years if the victim is under 18.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code also places obligations on internet service providers and internet content hosts to alert the Australian Federal Police if they become aware that their service can be used to access material which may be believed on reasonable grounds to be child abuse material or child pornography.

That means ISP and website operators must alert the police to such posts. It is an offence to fail to do so.

If you are convicted for engaging in revenge porn, you could end up with a criminal record that could impact on your reputation, employment prospects and travel plans.

READ MORE: Love at first sight? Be aware of online dating pitfalls.

For more information, visit our Criminal Law services.

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