Life

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Ex-rated: The total scandal of revenge porn

Technology can have a longer life span than love, so what happens when a bitter ex shares intimate knowledge of you online without your consent?

Chrissie Russell

Published 15/07/2014|00:00

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Hunter Moore uploaded personal photographs of his ex in an act of revenge
Cameron Diaz and Jason Siegel star in 'Sex Tape', which sees them upload a private video to their entire family and friends.
Several states in America have passed legislation banning revenge porn with penalties including fines and jail for those who violate the law, and similar measures have been introduced in some parts of Australia and Israel.

Break-ups are tough. There's the pain of accepting the relationship isn't working, the awkward return of keys, clothes, albums and box-sets, and, for some, the worrying question of what happens to items of a more personal nature.

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In today's digital world it shouldn't be surprising that more couples are bringing technology into the bedroom, using mobile phones for sexy selfies and iPads to record intimate moments.

Cameron Diaz and Jason Siegel star in 'Sex Tape', which sees them upload a private video to their entire family and friends.

Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have forged careers on their x-rated footage and a new film, Sex Tape, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel exemplifies how normalised it's become for couples to digitally record sexually explicit content.

But, outside the realms of Hollywood, what happens when the relationship is over and the trust is gone but the movies and photos still remain?

The emergence of 'revenge porn' - when someone, usually a bitter ex-partner shares intimate footage of an individual online without their knowledge or consent - is sad testament to the fact that digital technology can have a longer life span than love.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron's nanny was the latest high-profile victim of the trend when nude images of her were shared across adult websites.

Niamh (*name changed) knows how she feels. After splitting up with her boyfriend, she logged on to her Facebook account one day to find her profile picture had been replaced with a nude image of her.

Charlotte Laws pursued Hunter Moore after her daughter appeared on his revenge porn website

"I didn't even know when the photo had been taken, it looked like I was asleep," she says. "There were lots of comments from all my friends, it was horrible, I didn't know what to do, I was so embarrassed and scared.

"Then I saw a post from Dave, it just said 'slut'. I knew then it was him, he must have been able to access my Facebook account."

Niamh got in contact with the Women's Aid helpline and they were able to help advise her on changing her passwords and reassure her she wasn't alone. But the frightening reality is that very little can be done to ensure those naked pictures are gone for good.

Other countries have started to legislate against revenge porn. Last month a court in Germany ruled that ex-partners must delete all intimate or nude photos if one of the partners asks for it.

Several states in America have passed legislation banning revenge porn with penalties including fines and jail for those who violate the law, and similar measures have been introduced in some parts of Australia and Israel.

Several states in America have passed legislation banning revenge porn with penalties including fines and jail for those who violate the law, and similar measures have been introduced in some parts of Australia and Israel.

The need for action has been made abundantly clear by several tragic cases where young people felt compelled to take their own lives after being humiliated by sexually explicit images of them posted online.

US teen Amanda Todd, took her own life after
 topless photos of her were circulated online and last year, the suicide of Brazilian student Julia Rebecca (17) was linked to a sex tape leaked online.

In 2012 the revenge porn website IsAnyoneUp.com, run by Hunter Moore, a self-dubbed 'professional life-ruiner', was shut down and earlier this year Moore and an associate were arrested after Charlotte Laws, the mother of one of his victims, pursued a case against him with the FBI.

Moore's site earned thousands of dollars a month posting personal photos of women, some of whom were so distraught that they had to quit their jobs and change their names.

Hunter Moore uploaded personal photographs of his ex in an act of revenge

According to statistics from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 47pc of revenge porn victims contemplate suicide.

In Ireland, Women's Aid has called on the government to review domestic violence legislation and recognise that sometimes abuse within relationships can take the form of cyber-stalking and online harassment.

Stephanie Lord, a writer and activist for women's rights (feministire.com), agrees that it is cause for concern. "It's really, really difficult to tell if it's happening to the same extent in Ireland as it is elsewhere because no one is really measuring it or monitoring it effectively," she says.

"Also, understandably, many women are less inclined to speak about it for fear of drawing more attention to photos that might exist of them, so there isn't as much known about the extent of it as there is with some forms of violence against women, although it is certainly something that has cropped up for discussion in feminist activist circles."

A key worry, she feels, is that the attitude frequently displayed towards women who find their explicit images shared online, a 'if you don't want it to happen, don't do it in the first place' mentality.

"That's the same attitude that people use to allege if a woman was drinking she's complicit in her own rape, and it's clearly victim-blaming," she says. "We really need to reframe this question to ask 'why did this young man share that photo?'

"There was an incident last year at an Irish concert where an image of a teenage girl engaged in a sexual act went viral. Twitter was awash with people saying 'how could she do this in public?' and so on. Nobody was asking why that photo was shared in the first place."

She continues: "It's part of a social narrative that positions abuse of women as natural and that if we, as women, don't protect ourselves enough then it's our own fault if we are abused."

Victim-blaming is a concept all too familiar to Holly Jacobs. The US PhD graduate had to change her name, deactivate social-media accounts and cancel work meetings after an embittered ex posted intimate photos and videos she'd shared with him during their relationship.

Her experience prompted her to set up the website endrevengeporn.org to provide support for victims and campaign for the criminalisation of revenge porn.

"The response to the End Revenge Porn campaign has been overwhelmingly positive but we've also faced a lot of victim blamers and trolls saying things like 'you shouldn't have taken these pictures in the first place'," she says.

"I think misogyny is absolutely at the root of the problem. I believe it's becoming increasingly worse and the internet unfortunately provides a new vehicle to carry out misogynistic acts to slut-shame and humiliate 
women with the click of a button."

Unfortunately she fears that even legislation will only have limited impact when it comes to what happens after a break up.

"It's not just our legislation that needs to change, it's our culture," she says. "Our culture is still sending the message that women are sexual objects that men should have power over. Implementing legislation against revenge porn will prevent a lot of it from happening, but I don't believe it will be completely eliminated until misogyny ceases to exist."

 

 

What to do if you're a victim?

Internet safety expert, Simon Grehan
 (www.webwise.ie) explains the problems with tackling revenge porn.

What should you do if you're a victim of revenge porn?

"You should contact the Gardai and also report the incident through the hosting site using their reporting procedures. It's also important to keep evidence of where you encountered the image."

Why is it often so difficult to get an image removed from the internet?

"Once something is online, it's easy to copy. Even with apps like SnapChat, whose unique selling point is that the message will disappear in five seconds, it's possible to take a screen grab. All photos have 'DNA', a unique fingerprint that can be kept and compared against databases. This can be used in cases of tracking child pornography but the simple fact is there aren't enough people in the world to look at every single image uploaded to the internet and check that it's right. The issue can also be complicated if the hosting site is in a different jurisdiction."

What can you do to protect yourself from becoming a victim?

"Unfortunately even websites where you can restrict settings and limit audiences have holes in them. You need to work on the assumption that everything digital can be copied and as soon as you upload it you've lost control."

Who has rightful ownership of the photos?

"Pictures are owned by whoever took them but in the case of revenge porn, if someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy when the picture was taken, then distributing a picture taken in a private situation without the person's consent is breach of privacy."

 

Irish Independent

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