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Revenge porn victims could finally get the protection they need under a new law review

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Hollie Richardson
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Revenge porn

Laws around revenge porn, cyber-flashing and deepfake photos are being reviewed. Here’s how the overdue changes could help victims. 

Bella Thorne recently reignited a vital conversation around revenge porn after sharing her own “nude” photos. She did this to “take back power” when an online hacker blackmailed her with the pictures. 

“I’m putting this out because it’s my decision now,” she wrote on Twitter, alongside the photographs. “You don’t get to take yet another thing from me. I can sleep tonight better knowing I took my power back. You can’t control my life you never will.”

But Whoopi Goldberg added an unwelcome take on the situation, saying that Thorne and other celebrities should not be taking photos of themselves in the first place. 

“Once you take that picture it goes into the cloud and it’s available to any hacker who wants it,” she said on The View. “And if you don’t know that in 2019, that this is an issue, I’m sorry you don’t get to do that.”

Although Goldberg’s comments ignored the fact that the perpetrator is the only person to blame in these cases, it has helped to spark a global discussion around revenge porn. And it comes at a time when an important UK law around the issue is about to be reviewed. 

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To recap: revenge porn is legally defined as the sharing of private – often revealing or sexually explicit – images or videos of a person without their consent, with the intention of causing them distress or humiliation. It’s an ongoing issue, as other stars, including Mischa Barton and Amber Heard, have spoken out about their own experiences before.

And it’s not just celebrities affected by revenge porn, as the number of cases investigated by 19 police forces in the UK over the last four years has doubled.

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Revenge porn was made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. The Act specifies that if you are accused of revenge porn and found guilty of the criminal offence, you could be prosecuted and face a sentence of up to two years in prison.

However, as revenge porn is categorised as a communications crime, its victims aren’t given the same automatic anonymity as sexual offence victims. 

Now, a new Law Commission review is looking into this situation and examining if it needs to be changed so that victims can be granted automatic anonymity in court. It will also consider if “cyber-flashing” and “deepfake” images should be criminalised.

What is cyber flashing and deepfake pornography? 

Cyber-flashing is when people receive unsolicited sexual images on their mobile phone, and deepfake pornography is where an individual’s face is superimposed on to pornographic photos or videos.

Bella Thorne
Bella Thorne recently shared her revenge porn experience. 

Speaking about the need for the review, The Guardian reported that Justice minister Paul Maynard who helped call for it said: “No one should have to suffer the immense distress of having intimate images taken or shared without consent. We are acting to make sure our laws keep pace with emerging technology and trends in these disturbing and humiliating crimes. This review will build on our recent work to make upskirting and revenge porn illegal to protect victims and ensure perpetrators feel the full weight of the law.”

The BBC reported that Sophie Mortimer, from the Revenge Porn helpline, added that she would “strongly encourage a move to make the disclosure of private images a sexual offence, guaranteeing victims anonymity and giving the necessary reassurance to come forward and make formal complaints.”

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Professor David Ormerod QC, the criminal law commissioner at the Law Commission, also said in The Guardian: “Behaviours such as taking, making and sharing intimate images without consent or coordinated online harassment causes distress and can ruin lives. If the criminal laws are not up to scratch, we will propose reforms that simplify the current patchwork of offences to provide more effective protection for victims.”

The review opens next month and is due to report back in 2021. 

Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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