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Australia introduces reporting tool for online abuse

Posted on October 23, 2017

 

Australian authorities have launched a national reporting system for victims of “revenge porn”.

The average person finds it difficult to protect their privacy and seek justice when explicit images of them have been shared without consent, and the sheer size of social media companies such as Facebook means that there’s no way to quickly take down intimate images. However, the Australian government has been working towards a solution.

Julie Inman, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, announced last year that a reporting tool was in development, funded to the tune of £3.6m, and would be the first of its type. Now, the online portal has entered its pilot phase, which will allow the government to monitor “the volume and complexity of reports received” ahead of 2018’s full launch.

The tool looks to be a comprehensive way for victims to deal with the practical elements of any fallout. It provides guidance on how to collect important evidence, who to contact within major tech and how others can offer support.

However, it has its limits; whereas the team behind the tool can help track the offending images across the web and assist in having them taken down, it can’t assist victims in taking legal action or pressing charges. However, it can put them in touch with appropriate contacts within Australia’s various law enforcement agencies.

Revenge porn has been a particular problem for Australians. Where a 2016 study by the Data & Society Research Institute found that one in twenty-five Americans had fallen victim to the practice, Melbourne-based RMIT and Monash University found that one in five Australians had experienced such abuse. This includes taking sexual or nude images without consent, distributing such images without consent and threatening to share such images online.

The report also revealed that 39% percent of women had been targeted by an ex-partner, 46% percent of those surveyed feared for their safety, and 80% experienced severe anxiety or depression as a result or their ordeal.

Here in the UK, a law was introduced in 2015 to criminalise the practice of sharing intimate images without the subject’s consent, and a helpline has also been sent up for victims.

Revenge porn made major headlines in 2014 following an iCloud leak that saw explicit images of celebrities shared online. The problem has persisted, and in 2017, a private Facebook group of former US Marines was found to have shared nonconsensual pictures.

Although the portal seems to offer trustworthy support for victims, it’s unsure exactly how it can bring perpetrators to justice, given that federal laws declaring the practice to be illegal have yet to be passed in Australia. However, there’s no doubt that other governments will watch the outcome of this pilot phase with interest, given the number of people who have been traumatised.

Often, such attacks on people are carried out through fake Facebook accounts. An eBook we’ve made available through the Online Learning Academy can help victims get to the bottom of who is behind it all.

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