By Lauren Riddle

Revenge pornography or “revenge porn”, involves the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos without consent of the individuals depicted, and is used to humiliate and intimidate one of the subjects who has broken off the relationship. Generally, the sexually explicit image or video is made by a partner of an intimate relationship with the knowledge and consent of the subject, but later used by the perpetrators to blackmail the subjects, to coerce them into continuing the relationship, or to punish them for ending the relationship. Sometimes, perpetrators are not motivated by revenge or by any personal feelings toward the victim. A more accurate term for this is nonconsensual pornography, defined as the distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent. Many celebrities, such as Black Chyna, Mischa Barton, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian have all been victims of revenge porn distributed by former significant others.

In the wake of increasing incidents, legislation has been passed in a number of countries and jurisdictions to criminalize the posting of nude pictures without the consent of all individuals involved. Legislation has been passed in the United States, Israel, Germany, Australia, and most recently, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Social media sites like Facebook have also started to take actions to proactively detect and stop the spread of revenge porn. Even Internet service providers have fought back against revenge porn, shutting down sites dedicated to the posting of revenge porn.

The battle against revenge porn has taken a global stage in several very recent criminal and civil suits. Just in the last month in Denmark, over 1,000 individuals were charged with sharing sexually explicit content without consent on Facebook – which may be considered child pornography. The case comes after Denmark made a big push toward seeking harsher punishment for revenge porn. The country’s government recently announced a series of measures to curb an increase in the online sharing of nudes without consent, where you can now go to prison for up to two years.  Similarly in the United Kingdom YouTuber Chrissy Chambers won compensation in the first civil case of its kind after suing a former boyfriend over posting videos of their sexual activity to the Internet without her consent, after authorities opted not to pursue a criminal case. Ms. Chambers won an undisclosed sum from the perpetrator.

Revenge porn has been around for as long as the Internet, but the increased popularity of social media has boosted its potential impact. Linked networks now include family, friends and colleagues, and combined with the potential for posts to go viral, the opportunity for rapid humiliation through the use of revenge porn has reached an all time high. Many victims of revenge porn have lost their jobs and found themselves effectively unhirable. The nonconsensual dissemination of sexual images exposes victims not only to workplace discrimination, but also public humiliation, cyber-stalking, and physical attack. Victims have claimed that their lives have been ruined as a result of such image dissemination.

The devastating consequences of revenge porn are why governments and social media companies are fighting the practice. There is finally a growing awareness and movement to stop the spread of revenge porn. Although it holds many colloquial names in our society, the practice of “revenge porn” is certainly an example of psychological abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse – and should be treated as such on all social media platforms.

Student Bio: Lauren Riddle is a fourth year evening student at Suffolk University Law School. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in both communication and philosophy from Boston College.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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