Powers to remove intimate images

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Research shows 51 per cent of women aged 15-19 are often pressured to take intimate images of themselves and to share them.

THE eSafety Commissioner could be given new powers to investigate complaints and take action to remove or limit the distribution of intimate images shared without consent.

A discussion paper released by the Turnbull Government on Saturday, May 20 calls for feedback on potential enforcement measures such as civil penalties, enforceable undertakings, injunctions, and infringement and take-down notices for people who participate in the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and video or what many people call revenge porn.

Children’s eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the term image-based abuse was preferred to revenge porn to describe the phenomenon, because often it was not about “revenge”, nor was it “porn” created for the interest of a broader online audience.

She said because of the kinds of pressures young women were experiencing today, parents not only needed to teach their daughters to respect others, but also to respect themselves.

“Unfortunately, it’s a harsh reality for many young women growing up in our society to feel the overwhelming pressure to share intimate images,’’ she said.

“Research by Plan International and Our Watch reveals 51 per cent of women aged 15-19 are often pressured to take ‘racy’ photos (known as “intimate images”) of themselves and to share them.’’

The discussion paper released by the Turnbull Government on Saturday, May 20 calls for feedback on potential enforcement measures such as civil penalties, enforceable undertakings, injunctions, and infringement and take-down notices for people who participate in the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and video or what many people call revenge porn.

The Turnbull Government said it was working in concert with state and territory governments and both criminal and civil penalties would be pursued against perpetrators of the growing form of abuse.

In April the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner welcomed the Turnbull Government’s plan for the office to establish a national online complaints mechanism, to assist Australians to access tangible support when intimate images or videos are posted without their consent.

The portal will be live in the first quarter of the 2017-18 financial year.

The office said it was well placed to take on the role given its expertise in dealing with technology facilitated abuse – it has operated a cyberbullying complaints scheme since  July 2015 for Australian children under 18 years of age.

The Federal Government said additionally, a meeting of the COAG Law, Crime and Community Safety Council had released a national statement of principles relating to the criminalisation of non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said it was important to have  in place strong and consistent regulation at the Commonwealth level to protect Australians from image-based abuse and to hold perpetrators to account.

Minister for Women Michaelia Cash said the government was responding to feedback from affected individuals as well as organisations who dealt with the aftermath of shared intimate images.

“We have listened to victims and law enforcement agencies, and it is clear that in the first instance what victims want is for these images to be taken down as quickly as possible,” she said.

“By also penalising perpetrators and the sites which host this content, we are sending a strong message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Justice Minister Michael Keenan  said the national statement of principles would give state and territory governments a shared framework to develop and review criminal laws relating to the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

“The principles reflect protocols agreed with  states  and territories that recognise that state and territory police should generally handle criminal investigations into cybercrimes against the person.”

Submissions will be received until June 30.

The discussion paper and details on how to make a submission, are available at: www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/civil-penalty-regime-non-consensual-sharing-intimate-images

Face to face consultations will also occur through workshops.

The details of the workshops will be made available during the consultation process.

For a range of resources and advice for those who may have experienced the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, visit www.esafety.gov.au