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Revenge porn crackdown proposes new laws for abusers and websites

It's not just candid photos shared by ex-lovers -- it's serious abuse. Now the Australian government is cracking down on "revenge porn" and the sites that host it.

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In February this year, a Brisbane man was jailed after he superimposed a picture of his ex's head onto photos of naked women, posted the picture online with her address and invited strangers to rape her.

It's this kind of abuse that the government is hoping to crack down on with new laws targeting the sharing of intimate images without consent -- also known as "revenge porn."

The changes were put forward in a discussion paper over the weekend, and include the introduction of civil penalties for abusers as well as sites found hosting abusive images.

Although "revenge porn" is used to describe the sharing of intimate pictures and videos by ex-partners, this kind of online abuse doesn't just come from exes. It's a term that refers more broadly to "image-based abuse," in some cases by acquaintances or complete strangers, and according to the federal government, it's on the rise.

The plan to tackle abuse would see the current role of children's eSafety commissioner expanded to cover eSafety more broadly, and the introduction of a new complaints system.

The commissioner would have the power to:

  • Investigate complaints
  • Seek civil penalties through the federal court
  • Chase increased penalties for repeat offenders
  • Issue formal warnings and take down notices
  • Extend penalties to people "who have knowledge of, or participate in" the sharing of revenge porn

Australians would still be able to complain through normal channels on social media, and social media sites would have 48 hours to take offending images down. The eSafety commissioner currently works with the major social sites for these kind of complaints.

But the new measures would also allow victims to escalate complaints, and would create a national scheme to crack down on abuse, rather than laws that vary state by state.

The government concedes that with the global nature of the internet, it may not be possible to take every offending image offline. But it's hoped that changes will go someone to curb the rise in abuse.

"We have listened to victims and law enforcement agencies, and it is clear that in the first instance what victims want is for these images to be taken down as quickly as possible," said Minister for Women Michaelia Cash.

"By also penalising perpetrators and the sites which host this content, we are sending a strong message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."

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