Civil Penalty Regime for Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images
The Law Council is pleased to provide a submission to the Department of Communications and the Arts’ discussion paper, ‘Civil penalties regime for nonconsensual sharing of intimate images’, May 2017 (Discussion Paper).
The Discussion Paper raises several issues relating to the establishment of a civil penalty regime designed to prohibit, deter and penalise persons and content hosts who share intimate images or videos of a person without their consent. It is proposed that the eSafety Commissioner (the Commissioner) be given additional powers to enforce the prohibition.
While anecdotal evidence indicates the practice is increasing, the Law Council notes that a study by RMIT University and La Trobe University of 3,000 Australian adults stated that one in 10 survey respondents reported that a nude or semi-nude image of themselves had been posted online without their consent.
This apparently high incidence suggests a need to address the problem, particularly given that the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images online can be an extremely distressing experience for the victim. The posting of intimate images may cause harm to adult victims or minors. Distress can be exacerbated by the ease with which such images can be disseminated rapidly through online networks.
It will be necessary to ensure that the Commissioner is sufficiently resourced to effectively perform its functions. Further, as the issue is part of the larger issue of privacy, the Privacy Commissioner should be consulted on the proposed civil penalty regime and information sharing provisions. The issues raised are part of the larger issue of serious invasions of privacy. It is important therefore that any solutions developed in responding to the issues raised by this category of conduct do not undermine responses to the issue of privacy as a whole.
The Law Council notes that the Discussion Paper raised a large number of issues for consideration. The Law Council offers comments on a number of key issues.
The Law Council makes the following key recommendations:
- A civil penalties regime for the non-consensual sharing of intimate images should be introduced;
- The prohibition should be framed such that it includes all the digital fora on which intimate images might be shared, including websites;
- An Australian link should be required for the prohibition to be engaged;
- There should be a hierarchy of penalties available to the Commissioner, including rehabilitative and diversionary processes for minors;
- The Commissioner should have information gathering powers similar to those of the Australian Communications and Media Authority; and
- The prohibition should not include an ‘intent to harm’ or a ‘seriousness’ element.
You can read the full submission below.