Have you done something online in the past that you are now regretting? Do you know a friend who has and you are keen to find out more about how you can help? Well, you’re in the right place. In this piece, you’ll find information about:
- How and why these things happen
- How the technology works and what the possible risks are
- What you can do to regain control
- What the law says
- The impact on you for the future and what you can do about it.
How and why does this happen?
One of the ways people get naked online is via “Sexting” and “Revenge Porn”. Sexting is a term used to describe the sharing of intimate texts, images or videos with another person, most often between lovers. Most sexting is deliberate; the person sending the content means it to happen. They will pose or act in a sexual way and will make a direct effort to send it to the person they want to see it, usually a boyfriend or a girlfriend. When the relationship goes sour and one party decides to post the other’s naked picture online without their permission, it is called revenge porn.
Occasionally, if you have intimate pictures of yourself on your phone it might be possible to accidentally “share” it with the wrong person via email, WhatsApp, and other instant messaging apps; but this is rare. Accidental sexting is more likely to happen if your judgement is clouded due to the influence of alcohol, drugs or peer pressure. There are also cases where someone’s nude pictures found its way online after their mobile phone, tablet or PC got stolen or taken out for repairs.
Sharing naked pictures as part of a safe relationship is not a new thing. What has changed though is the speed with which you can share. With webcams and mobile phones, sending videos and pictures can be a spontaneous decision made without thinking about the immediate and remote consequences. In our parents’ younger years, the embarrassing stuff they did was rarely seen by anyone else. Today with mobile phones and the web, all that has changed. The World Wide Web means the potential of a huge audience and of course, if a photo is uploaded and shared, it can be on there forever. Pretty scary thought that something stupid you do at 14 can still potentially affect you at 40. This is not the end of the world. It just needs some thought on how you can minimise the effect of your mistake.
Was I right to have trusted the person I sent it to or was I being naive? You may ask. Well, most of the time, these intimate pictures are shared between boyfriends and girlfriends, and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t send them if you didn’t trust the other person would you? There are probably many images shared which never leave the intended recipient, even when the relationship ends. So ask yourself, if we break up, will this person respect me enough not to share my pictures? How well do you really know them? Sadly, it is often only when we split up with someone that we see their true colours. Sometimes yes you can trust the person you text. But, and this is a big but, do you really need to send them pictures of your body? If the person asking for this acts up when you refuse, is this someone you can trust?
Revenge porn commonly occur between two former lovers or friends that have fallen out acrimoniously. Some of the intimate materials are sometimes created without the consent of the victim and a good example will be where a partner makes a video or takes a snapshot of your nakedness secretly. Revenge porn offenders often link the private material to their victim’s online content, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, along with personal information including addresses and telephone numbers. In some instances, this content is also directed at family members to cause maximum harm to the victim.
Revenge porn has gradually gained prominence in Nigeria especially among young people. The most recurring aspect is the use of the threat of the release of the intimate materials to blackmail the victim and when the victim stops cooperating or refuses to cooperate, the materials are leaked online. Twitter seems to be the preferred platform for that purpose.
What can I do to regain control?
It depends on how the image was published; if you sent it directly to someone’s mobile and then had second thoughts, you need to have an honest conversation with them as soon as possible to get them to delete it. Posting directly to social networks makes it harder to regain that control. But there are ways in which you can challenge content about you that has been published by others using the site’s “report abuse” feature. It’s important to draw their attention to it and why you think it should be removed. Facebook recently introduced a new revenge porn detection tool that use artificial intelligence (AI) to track down intimate images shared without the subject’s consent. Which it claims can help it to detect near nude images and videos before even a user reports them.
But try not to panic even though it might seem like the end of the world. Take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to think about how this might affect you. First off, do you need support? If you do, find the best person to support you right now… friends, family, lawyer? You choose. Sometimes that first step of asking for help may be difficult. But you have to be honest with yourself. It may be your worst nightmare thinking of telling your parents you shared intimate pictures, and yes, they may kick off at first but they need to know; how are they going to support you if they don’t know? Real friends and professionals trying to help are only able to do so when they know all the facts and how you feel about it. If you know of a friend who is trying to deal with this maybe you could show them this! You can also benefit from the experience of others who have been through this before. Sophia Ankel shared what she learned when naked pictures of her were leaked online.
What does the law say?
The Law is on your side if you are a victim. It is aimed firmly at those who choose to illegally trade or profit from nude pictures of others, especially teenagers. In most countries in the west, revenge porn is specifically outlawed. This is so because Pornography itself is legal in those countries. It therefore only made sense that unauthorised release of intimate materials (like in revenge porn) had to be specifically outlawed. However, In Nigeria, there is no need for a law to specifically outlaw revenge porn as the parent crime itself – pornography, is outlawed.
Section 23 (2) of the Cybercrime Act 2015 criminalises the unsolicited distribution of pornographic images from one computer to another computer. An offender will be sentenced to one year in prison and/or a fine of N250,000. In relation to revenge porn, it seems that where distribution of the intimate images is solicited by a third party, there will be no liability on the distributor under this section.
Sometime last year, the Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti sentenced a man to two years in prison and a fine N500,000 for posting nude pictures of his ex-lover on Facebook. The victim had pleaded with his ex-lover not to carry out his threat of posting her naked pictures online. But he declined, following her inability to pay the sum of N200,000 as inducement for him to rescind his decision.
Is this going to affect things for me in the future?
Hopefully in most cases your continuing digital life will ‘bury’ your mistakes as time goes on. There is however no guarantee that the pictures will not linger on the internet and be seen by others later. Your reputation could be affected if future school mates, employers, or friends see it. Being honest and open and admitting a mistake is the best approach, as it will be with any future relationships. You should take control of your online reputation going forward. Google yourself regularly and review what shows up about you. If you find anything offensive report it to the hosting site for possible removal
Adapted from "So you got naked online," by SWGfL, 2013.