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Unsolicited sexting now illegal under new Victorian laws

Victoria has passed changes to the Crimes Act that rule out distribution of "intimate images" and even the threat to distribute images, making unwanted sexting against the law.

Image by Pat Williams, CC BY 2.0

Unsolicited sexting, sharing unwanted "intimate images" and even threatening to distribute such images is now illegal in Victoria under new laws designed to protect digital privacy.

The laws are part of a suite of changes to the Crimes Act [PDF], first announced in August, which create two new summary offences for "distribution of an intimate image" and "threat to distribute an intimate image" deemed to be "against community standards of acceptable conduct".

The laws apply to images of adults who have not consented to pictures being shared, and to the distribution of images of anyone under the age of 18. However, the new laws also have protections for young people to ensure that 'non-exploitative sexting' does not land people under the age of 18 on the sex offenders register.

"The new offence for distribution carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and the new offence of threatening to distribute carries a penalty of up to one year in prison," said a press release from the Victorian State Premier's office.

There are, of course, exceptions for images that depict criminal offences such as a sexual assault, which are still very much against the law.

The amendments have been introduced to ensure the law stays up to date with "rapid changes in the use of technology" according to Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark.

"Previously, the law provided only limited protection against malicious distribution of intimate images and this behaviour can cause considerable harm to victims, especially when images 'go viral'," he said.

"These new offences send a clear message that the malicious use of intimate images to embarrass and denigrate a victim is unacceptable and is a criminal offence."

However, Attorney-General Clark added that the provisions for young people were also important.

"These laws ensure that anyone under 18 who creates, possesses or distributes an intimate image or 'sext' of themselves or of another minor who is less than two years younger than them, will not be guilty of child pornography offences."