Kids as young as 11 are targets of revenge porn

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Children as young as 11 have been the victims of revenge porn in the first year of the UK’s new law against revenge – or nonconsensual – porn.

The BBC has analyzed Freedom of Information requests from 31 police forces in England and Wales that uncovered records on 1,160 victims mentioned in nonconsensual porn reports made between April and December 2015.

The new law specifically criminalized the sharing of private sexual images without the subject’s consent with the aim of inflicting distress: an act for which prosecutors had previously sought convictions under existing copyright or harassment laws.

The BBC’s findings:

  • Three victims were 11 years old
  • About 30% of offenses involved people under the age of 19
  • The average age of a revenge porn victim was 25
  • Around 11% of reported offenses resulted in the alleged perpetrator being charged, 7% in a caution and 5% in a community resolution
  • Some 61% of reported offenses resulted in no action being taken against the alleged perpetrator. Among the main reasons cited by police include a lack of evidence or the victim withdrawing support
  • Facebook was used in 68% of cases where social media was mentioned in reports. It was followed by Instagram (12%) and by Snapchat (5%)

Beyond sharing photos online, the law also covers nonconsensual sharing offline when done to cause harm, as in, passing around physical copies of images.

Convictions for revenge porn in the UK have included:

  • Jason Asagba, the 21-year-old who sent a woman’s photos to her family and shared them on Facebook a mere three days after the new law went into effect on 13 April 2015
  • David Jones, a 53-year-old married man who was sentenced to three months in jail after posting images of his ex on social media. She said she felt “complete terror” when she saw the sexually explicit images
  • Luke King, who swapped out his WhatsApp profile picture for a naked picture of his ex-girlfriend. The 21-year-old was prosecuted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and sentenced to 12 weeks of jail time in November 2014

Laura Higgins, of the Revenge Porn Helpline, told the BBC that the new legislation could have been stronger than it is.

As it is, the law fails to cover these areas:

  • It doesn’t ensure victims’ anonymity
  • It doesn’t cover historical cases
  • It fails to cover altered images, such as those tweaked via Photoshop

The BBC reports that a petition to change the law so that it grants victims the right to anonymity has been launched by Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan, along with a victim of nonconsensual porn.

Criminals overwhelmingly choose Facebook as the forum in which they prefer to torment. The social network has seen its share of legal woes because of it: In 2014, it was hit with a $123 million lawsuit in the US for hosting, for months, a page dedicated to humiliating one Texas woman with Photoshopped clips of her face pasted onto porn shots.

Since then, Facebook has said that it’s bolstered its report abuse infrastructure, appointing a worldwide team of experts to investigate the complaints around the clock in order to remove offending images as soon as possible.

Instagram and Snapchat say that they’re also on top of abuse reports 24/7.

What’s more, Google and Facebook this year teamed up to host an EU Child Safety Summit that focused on how to keep young people safe online and how both of the internet giants are fighting revenge porn.

As far as keeping your kids safe when they’re online goes, there are tools that can help us do it, including parental controls that let you set your children’s privacy settings, control whether they can install new apps, enforce ratings restrictions on what they can buy on iTunes, or that can even limit what type of app they can use.

We’ve got more tips to keep your kids safe online here.

And if you don’t even know just what, exactly, your kids are up to online, this could help.

Parents, please do share your own tips for keeping your kids safe in the comments section below.

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