Australian opposition wants laws to protect private smut

Revenge pr0n should be criminalised, say ALP MPs

Australia's opposition, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), is hoping to bring the country into line with the UK and other jurisdictions with a ban on revenge porn.

Opposition members of parliament Tim Watts and Terri Butler have drafted a bill to bring the ban into effect and posted it for comment here.

The bill (full text here, discussion paper here) proposes penalties including jail time for both posters of revenge porn (up to three years) and website operators (up to five years), as well as covering extortion (including threatening to release pictures of someone else's spouse or child).

As the discussion paper explains, the legislation would catch “individuals who share, or threaten to share, private sexual images or film recordings of others without consent and with the intention of, or where there is the risk of, causing that person harm or distress, as well as those who operate 'revenge porn' websites.”

While using a carriage service to “threaten or harass” is already a criminal offence in Australia, Watts and Butler argue that those provisions are too broad, and too difficult to access, for those targeted by revenge porn.

For example, if a web site permits anonymous posting (and the attacker has the sense to use a VPN), it can be hard to pin down the “user” of a carriage service for harassment. The only other provisions in the Telecommunications Act relate to material depicting minors, or being sent to minors, which leaves adults without protection.

The discussion paper says, therefore, that in cases of revenge porn, “Australians are forced to rely on private law remedies” to get a take-down – and that can be expensive.

As well as web sites, the Watts/Butler bill would also outlaw image or video sharing via SMS, e-mail, and social media.

While the Australian State of Victoria has such laws in its jurisdiction, the ALP's plan is to outlaw the practice at a national level. The discussion paper notes that countries with similar laws include the UK, Canada, Israel, Brazil, and the Philippines. America only has revenge porn laws at the State level.

The proposed law includes a limited exemption for media, who would have to prove that dissemination of material is in the public interest; and the same would apply to law enforcement agencies. ®

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