STAY SAFE: Five important ways to deal with revenge porn and other distressing cyberbullying.

The posting of intimate images online can be used to bully and demean women. 18 March is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence – so it’s a great time to look at what we can do to tackle this growing issue.

It may have started with celebrities, but with the swift growth of social media and smartphones, anyone in a failed relationship may now fear becoming the victim of revenge porn.

Posting online images to embarrass and humiliate an ex-partner (or threatening to do so) – so-called ‘revenge porn’ – has hit many ordinary people recently.

Courageous victims have spoken to the media and at parliamentary inquiries around the country. 

My work as the Children’s eSafety Commissioner is related to young people’s online troubles, and how to solve them. Far too many young people have learnt bad lessons from the adults in their lives about harassing and embarrassing others online.

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“With the swift growth of social media and smartphones, anyone in a failed relationship may now fear becoming the victim of revenge porn.” Image via iStock.

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner has been operating since July last year. We administer a complaints system to get serious cyberbullying material affecting young people taken down quickly from social media sites. We manage complaints about illegal online content (such as child sex abuse material). And we promote and lead online safety education for Australian children and their families nationally.

Respectful online behaviour needs to start from the moment kids access the Internet, and we have a range of programs to assist parents and teachers.

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The non-consensual sharing of private and intimate images can be a form of technology-facilitated domestic violence. In many cases it is part of a pattern of abuse against women.  Sharing – and viewing – such images without consent is disrespectful towards women.  In coming months our Office will be releasing a resource package to help empower women as they interact with technology, to reduce abuse via smartphones and social media services, and we will be taking training to frontline staff in police forces and women’s shelters.

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“The non-consensual sharing of private and intimate images can be a form of technology-facilitated domestic violence.” Image via iStock.

In the meantime, here is some information we want you to know if you or a member of your family are affected by cyberbullying or online harassment, including the sharing of intimate images without consent:

  1. Collect evidence such as screen shots of the material as soon as you see it. This is important for reporting the issue.  Our site has step-by-step guides on how to do this: Look for “Collecting Evidence” at https://www.esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/cyberbullying-complaints/cyberbullying-complaints-faqs  
  2. Ensure you report the behaviour immediately to the social media service so they can take it down. See our link here for quick reference to the complaints areas of the main sites: https://esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/cyberbullying-complaints/social-media-services-safety-centres
  3. If the content is being used to threaten, intimidate, harass or humiliate a person under the age of 18, report it to our Office at: www.esafety.gov.au/reportcyberbullying.
  4. Taking the matter to the police is an important step. There are a number of existing Federal, State and Territory criminal laws that can be used to take action against offenders engaging in ‘revenge porn’ style conduct.  (See our non-exhaustive list here https://www.esafety.gov.au/about-the-office/legislation) Call Triple Zero (000) if there is immediate danger
  5. Consider your own actions and remember to treat others with respect. Don’t look at or share material that you wouldn’t want shared if you were the subject.  Each time a private intimate image is viewed or re-shared, someone is re-victimised.

Educating our young people as they start to use social media and mobile devices is essential to prevent or limit these issues arising in the future. Adults need to set an example.  Our Office’s trainers have educated more than 60,000 students, teachers and pre-service teachers face to face since July last year. And more than 40,000 students across the nation have also learned about online safety via our Cybersmart Virtual Classrooms. If you know a teacher, get them to have a look at our classroom resources here.

We don’t want to dwell on the negatives about the online world – most of our interactions and those of our children are beneficial; but it all has to based on respect, consent, and keeping to the rules.   

Alastair MacGibbon is Australian Government’s Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

For more information on the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence click here.

Harassment comes in many different forms. Listen to what some Aussie kids have to say about how bullying impacts them:

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