Only one Australian state has specific revenge porn legislation and laws vary widely across the country and around the world. Dateline explains what it means for victims.
By
Dr Nicola Henry

13 Jul 2015 - 5:14 PM  UPDATED 15 Oct 2015 - 4:52 PM

Victoria made it a criminal offence to maliciously distribute intimate images without the person’s consent in August last year.

Offenders can face up to two years imprisonment for distributing images and up to a year for threatening to distribute images.

But other states rely on much older legislation created before this kind of very modern crime existed, explains legal expert Dr Nicola Henry from Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

In New South Wales, people can be charged under the Crimes Act 1900 with publishing indecent articles, although the state is currently conducting an inquiry looking at the adequacy of its laws.

Nationally, people can be charged with ‘using a carriage service to cause offence or to harass or menace another person’ under Commonwealth telecommunications legislation.

And in South Australia, broader offences under the Summary Offences Act 1953 relating to the distribution of an invasive image can include revenge porn offences.

Some argue that those existing laws are adequate, but Dr Henry says she wants to see specific criminal offences at both federal and state level.

A recent case in South Australia, where hundreds of women allegedly had their images published on a US discussion board website, also demonstrates the difficulty pursuing cross-border prosecutions.

25 states of America now have specific revenge porn legislation, but some only apply if the images were taken without the consent of the person shown, so ‘selfies’ are excluded.

Chrissy Chambers’ case featured on Dateline also highlights the issue with international cases.

Revenge Porn Justice? A Victim’s Story
When Chrissy Chambers ended a relationship, she says her ex posted videos online of them having sex as revenge, but her fight for justice highlights the difficulty pursuing such a modern form of crime.

Although she’s based in the US, she believes her ex-boyfriend posted the videos in his native UK, so she has to travel to London to pursue the case.

Earlier this year, the UK introduced legislation outlawing the distribution of a private sexual image of someone without their consent, as long as there’s intention to cause distress.

But because the videos in Chrissy’s situation were posted before that, she must use a patchwork of prior laws to make her case.

Elsewhere, the Philippines introduced a specific revenge porn law in 2009, which applies regardless of whether the original image was taken with permission or not.

Israel became the first country to classify a revenge porn perpetrator as a sex offender in 2014, and also last year, specific legislation was created in Canada and Japan.

Revenge porn: The rise of online revenge attacks
Revenge Porn, or the posting of explicit images by former lovers online to embarrass, harass or blackmail their victims, is spreading like wildfire. And some say that the law is dangerously outdated in dealing with a growing number of Revenge Porn cases. Andy Park looks at the rise of online revenge attacks.

But Chrissy intends to make legal history as the first person to not only pursue a criminal prosecution of her former partner, but also to seek a civil action for damages.

Dr Henry, who’s a Senior Lecturer in Legal Studies, says civil cases do also remain an option, although the cost is likely to be prohibitive for the average person.

She says there also needs to be more than just a legal response. She wants more done by website companies to remove offending images from their websites.

Already, Google and Microsoft have announced how they'll remove links from search results when reported by victims, and Twitter, Facebook and Reddit have banned revenge porn posts.

But she also wants to see more research into why people are posting revenge porn at all and asks what can be done to prevent it and make people act more ethically online in the first place.