fbpx

Eleanor Leedham argues for victims of revenge porn to receive compensation

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Eleanor Leedham, Legal Director, highlights the pressing need for adult websites to compensate victims of “revenge porn” for infringements of personal data rights.

Eleanor’s commentary was published in The Times, 6 October 2022, and can be found here.

Victims of “revenge porn” will be in no doubt about the seriousness of this relatively new but growing problem. Refuge, the domestic abuse charity, estimates that one in 14 adults in England and Wales has experienced threats to share intimate or sexual images online or via social media, or to send them to the individual’s friends, family or employer.

In a number of documented cases, this tech-enabled threat leads to coercive control, domestic abuse, damage to mental health and even suicide. Not surprisingly, revenge porn has been criminalised, but the practice is still growing.

However, new forms of potential redress in the civil courts are emerging, which may yet prove effective in deterring this appalling behaviour and providing some comfort to victims.

It became illegal under the Criminal Justice and Court Act 2015 to disclose a private sexual photograph or film without the consent of an individual who appears in it. In the eight months that followed, police in England and Wales received 1,160 reports, but followed up fewer than 40 per cent. In the first year after the legislation was implemented, only 200 cases were prosecuted, according to the Crown Prosecution Service. British-based dedicated revenge porn websites remain established.

The long awaited Online Safety Bill, already criticised for not doing enough to crack down on image-based sexual abuse, faces delays in parliament. But another legal avenue for victims that is so far unexplored is a civil claim for breaches of data protection regulations, misuse of private information and breach of confidence against the sites that distribute revenge porn.

Private sexual images published without consent should not be on any public websites. The fact they can be found on multiple adult content sites indicates that those sites have inadequate checks and processes for preventing the upload of illegal images, removing those that have made it onto the site and ensuring no further dissemination.

These shortcomings are probably breaches of the UK General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018, which require sites to process personal data lawfully, especially in its more sensitive forms, and to protect the rights of data subjects. Adult websites in general have clearly neglected to carry out adequate data protection impact assessments, itself a breach of the law.

Misuse of victims’ private information has evidently been a money-spinner for many of these sites and apps — and possibly for the payments companies that enable them. They are deserving targets for victims seeking compensation. Making them accountable might also be an effective way to prevent similar abuse from happening to others in the future.

In February 2024, our firm changed its name from Keller Postman UK to KP Law.

Share this article: