Long overdue, the Department of Justice will introduce legislation later this year
Ahead of Newstalk’s #PornWeek, RED C was commissioned to investigate the porn consumption – and participation – of Irish adults. Just 8% of the 1,000 people polled admitted to sharing naked images of themselves with their partners.
Consenting adults are, of course, entitled to sext each other, and the proliferation of the Internet in the dating and hook-up scene has undoubtedly led to people feeling more carefree about posing in front of their camera lens and sending it out into the digital ether. But doing some so comes with a potentially huge personal risk, with spurned lovers known to engage in what has become known as revenge porn.
Revenge porn is the given name to the act of one or more people distributing sexually explicit images or videos of another, without the consent of that person. Racy selfies or even hardcore videos may be made well have been made and sent with the consent of the person appearing therein, but it’s what happens after that matters most.
Someone in possession of these files could use them to blackmail a former girlfriend or boyfriend into performing other sexual acts, to coerce them into remaining in an unhappy relationship, or upload them online, sometimes with other identifying details, as punishment for ending a courtship.
Hunter Moore, known as the "most hated man on the Internet," and one of the most infamous purveyors of revenge porn. In December, 2015, Moore was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for his role in running the now defunct revenge porn website Is Anyone Up? [Instagram]
The victims of revenge porn, whose social media profiles are frequently linked to when their image is uploaded to the Internet, are exposed to potential workplace discrimination, cyber-stalking, or even physical attack. Isolated and feeling as though their life has been ruined, that they are unemployable when scrutinised with a simple Google search, and may even consider self-harm.
As it currently stands, Ireland is lagging behind a number of countries that have enacted laws against revenge porn, including the UK, Germany, and Israel. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced last Christmas that her department intended introduce porn laws here in 2017.
“The speed and scale of modern online communication can magnify the damage done by harmful communications,” she said. “Phenomena such as so-called revenge pornography and the publication of voyeuristic material can do serious and lasting harm at the touch of a button, and it is important that we act now to ensure our laws can deal effectively with these challenges.”
The Department of Justice was propelled by a recommendation by the Law Reform Commission last September, strongly urging the government to include a number of web-based harassments in the new Non-Fatal Offences (Amendment) Bill. As well as revenge porn, it will also include guidelines on cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying.
Under the LRC proposals, revenge porn would carry an unlimited fine and/or a jail term of up to seven years in cases tried on indictment in the Circuit Court.
Less serious forms of those offences, which would be heard in the District Court, would carry a maximum fine of €5,000 and/or up to 12 months in prison.
Advocacy groups, as well as the LRC, have argued that the prosecution of minors should be a last resort. According to Newstalk’s RED C poll, 69% of the parents polled expressed concern that their child could be sending or receiving explicit images.
A consultation period is now underway at the Department of Justice, with the laws expected to come into force in the coming months.