Revenge Porn: MPs finally facing ‘internet crime’

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The announcement of new legislation criminalising revenge porn shows MPs are finally taking internet crimes seriously

‘Revenge porn’ is the act of sharing sexually explicit images of ex-partners without their consent. It is a rising problem, especially amongst young people, and a common way for individuals to seek blackmail or hold power over ex-partners once a relationship has turned sour.

The legislation has come after increasing political pressure and a number of high profile cases involving celebrities such as Rihanna and Tulisa Contostavlos. The charity Victim Support describes sharing such images as a ‘gross violation of privacy’ and the wider issue of leaking naked photos has been labelled by victims such as Jennifer Lawrence as ‘sexual crimes’. The new crime which is currently going through approval in Parliament will hold a maximum of 2 years imprisonment and include both pictures posted on-line and in print form.

The change in law has been hailed by many Parliamentarians with the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling denouncing the act of revenge porn as ‘almost beyond belief’. Whilst it is still questionable how many offenders will actually be caught and successfully prosecuted under the new legislation it is certainly a step in the right direction. It sends out a clear message that crimes, especially those of a sexual nature, will be taken as seriously on-line as they are in ‘everyday life.’

What this debate has churned up is the wider issue of Parliament’s inadequacy and unwillingness to face so-called ‘internet crimes.’ It is about time that there was a serious attempt to effectively legislate in ‘grey areas’ such as these where there is currently little or no protection for victims. It is, after all, inevitable that as technology advances there is only going to be more and more internet-based crimes to protect against.

It is true that restricting and regulating behaviour on the internet is difficult but this does not mean that it shouldn’t be tackled. In fact, if MPs wish to keep up with the problems of the 21st century then the sphere of ‘internet crimes’ should be of their main concern. Lawyers have criticised the new legislation on the basis it is too specific allowing guilty offenders ‘slipping through the net’ whilst simultaneously admitting the possibility of a ‘catch all’ provision is simply unachievable. Clearly a balance therefore needs to be achieved in legislation dealing with internet-based crimes.

Time and time again legislation with loose terms has been enacted to no real effect and thus a systematic and far reaching review of how the UK deals with internet based crimes should not be too far off the political agenda. Individuals who commit crime on the internet must be shown that there are real consequences for their behaviour. It is true, however, that as well as educating the perpetrators we should be educating the distributors, it is certainly a dangerous culture where young girls are not fully appreciating the consequences and permanency of sending images on-line.