In the age of digital media – with the world-wide-web, social media, smartphones and the ‘screenshot’ – it has become easy for netizens to engage in a phenomenon known as ‘revenge porn’ even if they don’t know it.
#DURBAN: “Revenge porn” crimes are on the rise and the recent incidents that the media publishes is just the tip of the iceberg. The number of reported cases is no indication on the volume of cases that are not reported due to shame and lack of education on your rights.
Following the leak of explicit content this past week of a couple in Chatsworth, a series of other women and men have had their intimate content being released on social media.
The shocking effects of nonconsensual pornography lead to instances of public shaming and humiliation. A victim of revenge porn also has long reaching effects on quality of life thereafter where they struggle to find new romantic partners, another aspect is depression and anxiety, job loss or problems securing new employment, and offline harassment and stalking.
Government and communities need to work together to educate South Africans on the dangers of oversharing on social media.
Compulsory Sex education
Another avenue to prevent cases of #revengeporn is to ensure that youngsters are able to receive quality sex and relationship education. The objective of this should be to teach children the pro’s and con’s of sex, consent and abuse.
This should be something that is taught both at home and in learning institutions.
Current legal remedies in South Africa
When a sexually explicit image or video is posted online, practical considerations initially outweigh legal considerations. The main concern is having the photo or video removed as quickly as possible, before it goes viral. In addition, many people are advised to log off and delete their profiles from social media accounts, but in the long term this does not adequately solve the problem, it merely ignores it.
The only option victims have to reclaim their ‘real’ online self is to issue constant take-down requests – and even this is a privilege afforded only to some.
To date, the complexities of the law in this area lag behind technology and revenge porn is not yet a criminal offence in South Africa, although as discussed below, this position is likely to change soon. Nevertheless, victims have other available legal remedies, some more effective than others. One option for a victim of revenge porn is to sue for civil damages as it constitutes defamation of character. Another option is to sue for crimen injuria, which would involve a case being opened at the police station. Essentially the accused should be criminally prosecuted for violating the victim’s dignity. Alternatively, the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011 offers a comparatively cheap remedy, which allows victims to apply for protection orders against perpetrators. South Africa’s Copyright Act 98 of 1978 in addition specifically provides for interdictory relief, which on an urgent basis could provide for the offending images being removed from online.
The only option victims have to reclaim their ‘real’ online self is to issue constant take-down requests – and even this is a privilege afforded only to some. This has to change where education of what to do – when you are in this situation – needs to be promoted.
However, the above legal remedies are not without fault. Litigation can become a costly and lengthy affair, by which time the victim’s reputation has suffered irreparable harm. Copyright law is only applicable where the victim took their own image or video, such as a selfie.
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Source inputs: M & G