What is revenge porn and what’s the law against it?

In Channel 4's new documentary about the rise in revenge porn, Anna Richardson investigates what happens when someone shares your most private photos. Here's everything you need to know about the offence.

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It’s no secret that the internet can be a dark place, but revenge porn is one of the most disturbing uses of the web. In Channel 4’s documentary about the now illegal practice, Anna Richardson meets victims and perpetrators and uploads her own nude pictures to a revenge porn site to understand how it all works. But what is revenge porn in the eyes of the law, and what actually constitutes an offence? Here’s everything you need to know about the issue, from new charity Revenge Porn Helpline

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What is revenge porn?

It’s the sharing of sexually explicit photos or videos of another person without their consent. Content is often uploaded by ex-partners with an intention to shame or embarrass an individual, linking content to the persons other online content, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or even work websites, along with personal information including addresses and telephone numbers. Sometimes this content is also directed at family members to cause maximum harm to the victim.

Is revenge porn a crime?

Yes, since 2014 it’s been against the law to publish a private sexual image of another identifiable person without their consent if it would upset or harm the person in the picture. 

Does the offence only apply to images posted on the internet?

No. The offence will apply to any kind of  private sexual photographs or films. This could include uploading images on the internet, sharing by text and e-mail, or showing someone a physical or electronic image. 

What kind of images normally constitute revenge porn? 

it varies, but it could show an individual’s exposed genitals, or be a picture of someone who is engaged in sexual behaviour or posing in a sexually provocative way. It’s got to be something not ordinarily seen in public. 

What about a photo of a topless woman?

This would only be an offence if a reasonable person would think that the image as a whole or what was shown in it was sexual and what was shown was not the kind of thing ordinarily seen in public. So while this could of course cause distress, it wouldn’t necessarily count as revenge porn.

Why is a photograph or film which portrays someone’s genitals an offence but not other kinds of naked photos? Ie of a topless woman.

The offence only makes specific reference to one part of the body – exposed genitals or pubic area – because this part of the body is generally thought to be so intimate that an image showing it should automatically be regarded as sexual for the purposes of the offence. 

If you retweet or forward a private sexual photograph or a film that you didn’t take in the first place, are you also committing the offence?

 Not unless the person retweeting or forwarding it is trying to cause the person in the picture distress.  

How do you report it?

Depending on where the content is hosted you might be able to request that the site remove it. Most Social Networks don’t allow nudity on their sites, and many UK adult sites only allow content uploaded with consent. You may be able to request that the search engine which holds the info remove it, in the first instance Google, Yahoo and Bing all have tools which enable you to remove search listings in your name. Google have also now allowed a “right to be forgotten” rule, which means that you can ask for actual content to be deleted, not just the references to your name. This only applies for content hosted in the EU. 

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 Revenge Porn is on Monday 17th August at 10.00pm on Channel 4