Frequently Asked Questions
What is revenge pornography?
Also called “non-consensual pornography,” it is the unauthorised sharing of intimate (often sexual) pictures or videos of someone without his or her consent. A typical case of revenge pornography might involve an ex-partner uploading an intimate image of the victim to the internet. It is carried out with the intention of causing distress and humiliation to the victim.
Often the images are linked to the victim’s social media accounts and other websites. In some cases, links to the content are sent to family members, friends and employers. Sometimes the images are posted on porn sites or websites deliberately set up to host this sort of content, with information that identifies the person, such as name, address, and phone number included in order to maximise humiliation and fear.
Yes. It became an offence to share private sexual photographs or films without the subject’s consent, with intent to cause distress, in England and Wales under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act in April 2015 and in Scotland under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act in April 2016. Both offences carry a sentence of two years’ imprisonment.
Is it a criminal offence?
Yes. Please contact the police as soon as possible. Evidence is key so keep screenshots of as many posts and messages as you can, especially those of a threatening nature, and log the dates. Even if fake accounts or other methods to conceal the perpetrator’s identity have been used to distribute the images, the evidence taken together can often be decisive in identifying who has done it.
Should I report it to the police?
You may be able to bring a civil claim (that is, one for monetary damages) against the perpetrator for the stress and anxiety that you have experienced. Revenge porn may be evidence of harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act. You can also claim that the posting of the pictures on the Internet has been an intrusion of your privacy. Depending on the amount of harm done, damages paid to the victim can range from modest to very substantial.
Can I bring a civil claim?
Technically, sharing or posting an intimate image of someone under 18 is a child pornography offence under the Protection of Children Act, even if it is you sharing your own image. Recently, a schoolgirl sending an explicit photo to her boyfriend resulted in the police being called in. She was under 18 and therefore had committed an offence of distributing an indecent image of a child – even though she was the child in question.
So if you are under 18 and have sexted – that is, sent a naked or intimate selfie of yourself to someone – you should seek legal advice. If the recipient (anyone else) subsequently posts this image without your consent, he will likely be guilty of an offence of revenge porn as well as child pornography. You should therefore be very careful, if you are under 18, about the kinds of images that you send, either by email or on your phone.
For people of all ages, the only certain way of avoiding the possibility of a revenge porn post targeting you is not to have any intimate pictures of yourself in circulation.
What if I’m under 18?
No. It applies to any disclosure of private sexual or intimate images or videos on or off-line, including sharing by text and email, and directly showing someone a photograph or electronic image, as well as uploading to the internet.
Does the criminal law against revenge porn apply only to images posted on the internet?
Depending on where it is hosted you may be able to request the site remove it. Most social network sites have strict policies about nudity and many UK adult sites only allow content to be uploaded with consent. Mainstream social media sites like Facebook have become better about responding to requests to take down revenge porn images. Google, Yahoo and Bing will delink them to its search results so they become harder to find.
But some sites specialise in hosting this material because it is profitable, and they often ignore takedown requests.
If you took the image yourself, you will probably own the copyright, which gives you the right to require that the image be removed from the website. Even specialist revenge porn sites will frequently honour copyright takedown requests because the law is clear and relatively easy to enforce, and a violation means they have to pay damages.
Can I get the images or video removed?
If you know the person responsible, you may be tempted to contact them directly. Sometimes that can work, but you should think very carefully before doing so. They have already abused your privacy and trust in the worst way and therefore you cannot rely on them to behave well now. The feeling of power that abusing the images confers on the perpetrator can be enhanced if the victim is obviously upset and vulnerable, and thus spur them to do even more damage.
What else can I do?
Before you go to the police, or in addition to going to the police, we can approach the perpetrator and calmly but firmly request they take down the material and explain the legal consequences they will face if they do not. Having a third party get involved in this way often makes them “wake up”, realise they have overstepped boundaries and must take down the posts. If they do not, then we can take your case further and, depending on the circumstances, represent you in bringing claims for misuse of private information, breach of confidence, harassment, copyright infringement, defamation and other offences. Each case is different.
We have recently acted for clients to help them:
- Remove offending material, obtain apologies, damages and costs from those responsible
- Require websites (including revenge porn sites) to remove the material
- Cause internet service providers and search engines to remove links and material
- Make representations to the police and CPS to investigate and prosecute those responsible
Do I need to have a solicitor?
This varies. We always provide initial advice free of charge and only take on your case if we think it has a good chance of succeeding. You can help keep costs down by doing some work yourself, like sending takedown requests to Facebook or Google. A simple “cease and desist” letter from us to the perpetrator will cost substantially less than a lawsuit. In some cases, we may be to offer “no win no fee” terms. We will try to find the simplest and most economical solution for you, at what we know is an extremely distressing time.
How much will it cost me?