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The Government has announced an Online Safety Bill, featuring a law that will make cyberflashing illegal. The maximum sentences will be the same as those for indecent exposure.
Cyberflashing refers to sending unsolicited explicit images online and those found guilty will face up to two years in prison.
The law banning cyberflashing will impose a duty of care on big tech companies, and aims to put greater responsibility on preventing victims from being targeted on social media or dating apps.
Companies who breach the act will face fines from Ofcom, the communications regulator, of up to 10 per cent of global turnover.
A 23-year-old victim of cyberflashing, said: “He would just send dick pics to me unannounced, like literally out of the blue all the time. He used to send me videos out of the blue too and it was vile.”
She met the man who sent the images on Tinder. He said he was 25-years-old and a police officer. “I’d only known him a couple of days when it first started,” she said. “Never once did I ask for any of the videos or photos because it’s not something that you’d want to see.”
The victim, who was 21 at the time, did not reply to the messages as she did “not really know what you’re supposed to say”.
She said: “It was very uncomfortable. You felt like you just had to go along with it and those kinds of photos were all you were worthy of having and receiving.”
On some data sharing services including Bluetooth and Airdrop, it is possible for previews of images to appear on the user’s phone without opportunity for rejection.
In a statement to Parliament this weekend, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “It is time we made cyberflashing a criminal offence on a par with its physical counterpart, to ensure the law catches up with technology.”
The proposed new law follows data showing a spike in unsolicited photos being sent to victims on London tubes and trains.
In November 2021, dating app Bumble launched a campaign called #DigitalFlashingIsFlashing, urging the Government to make cyberflashing illegal.
Research by the company suggested that nearly 48 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 have received an explicit or sexual photo that they did not ask for in the last year.
YouGov data echoed this but suggested that cyberflashing victims are predominantly female. Figures showed that 41 per cent of millennial women have been sent a picture of a man’s genitals without asking or being asked. This showed a clear disparity when only 22 per cent of male millennials admitted to having sent explicit photos.
The UK is the next in a list of countries to bring in tougher sanctions on cyberflashing, including Australia and Singapore who introduced a ban in 2019 after reform to the country’s criminal code. Penalties also extended to revenge-porn and carried up to five years prison time plus fines.
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