Actress Jennifer Lawrence told Vogue magazine this month (Aug 2017) that she still suffers the psychological effects of the internet attack on her in 2014, in which nude pictures of her were hacked and then posted online.
She was not the only celebrity affected at the time, but she is almost certainly the most commonly mentioned one.
"It’s scary when you feel the whole world judges you… I think people saw [the event] for what it was, which was a sex crime, but that feeling, I haven’t been able to get rid of it. Having your privacy violated constantly isn’t a problem if you’re perfect. But if you’re human, it’s terrifying. When my publicist calls me, I’m like, “Oh, my God, what is it?” Even when it’s nothing. I’m always waiting to get blindsided again."
Revenge Pornography and Sextortion Can Happen to Anyone
This type of situation is not exclusive to celebrities. Indeed, many thousands of people suffer from ‘revenge pornography’ attacks upon them, which has a similar impact on their well being. Revenge pornography is where someone releases naked images or sexual information about a person without their consent as part of a vendetta. There is also a problem with ‘sextortion’ on the internet, where people threaten to carry out the above.
A few months ago, The Guardian newspaper published an article about a leaked Facebook document. It indicated that in a single month Facebook needed to deal with nearly 54,000 potential cases of revenge pornography and sextortion. These cases occur on all types of social media platforms of course, not just Facebook, and we at MW Solicitors are seeing an increase in clients approaching us with an emotional and reputational crisis on their hands because of revenge pornography and sextortion attacks.
In our experience, these incidents often arise when people are having affairs, are getting divorced, or have a spiteful partner or ex-partner. We have even had cases where people in relationships have had to resort to sleeping with their mobile telephones under their pillows because they are concerned about their partners using their private PIN numbers to access their phones while they are sleeping. Whether the intention is to snoop, or to forward sexual or naked images to themselves or to share with others such as with the victim’s work colleagues or the victim’s family and friends, revenge pornography is almost always used to cause maximum embarrassment and emotional damage to the victim.
What Can I do if I am a victim of Revenge Pornography?
Sometimes contacting the social media provider directly to require it to remove the images or information is successful, but at other times a victim might not know where the pictures or information are published or stored and they can be difficult to trace. Despite the amount of resources they are reported to spend on tackling the issue, some social media companies are not as quick or as effective as victims may expect when it comes to removing revenge pornography from their networks.
What Can the Law Do to Help Victims?
UK laws and courts do provide various very efficient avenues to protect victims of revenge pornography, or sextortion. These can be used to deal with a problem quickly, to have the items traced, to have them removed from a particular website or IT storage facility, and to ensure that they are not disseminated further afield.
Once the law is used to protect a victim or potential victim, the legal sanctions on the offending person or host of the material can be severe.
We Can Help
At MW Solicitors, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including people who are the victims of revenge pornography or sextortion.