‘Cyberflashing’ now punishable by two years jail time under new law

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by Miriam Kuepper

People sending unsolicited pictures of their private parts will now face up to two years in prison under a new law in the upcoming online safety bill.

Cyberflashing, the act of sending sexually explicit pictures to others, will be a criminal offence under the new online safety bill introduced this week.

Sending unsolicited photos of your genitals is now a crime.

Madeleine, 23, has been a victim of cyberflashing and is happy about the new regulation coming into place.

She said: “It’s needed, because it’s really upsetting and can really affect people mentally and physically.

“I think it’s really good that they are putting in a law that protects individuals, because these kinds of pictures shouldn’t be happening and unfortunately they are.”

Madeleine had her first experience with cyberflashing after giving a guy she met on Tinder her Snapchat details.

She said: “Maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t think anything of it.”

The first snapshot she received, was a picture of his genitals. Madeleine recalls: “I really panicked as I opened it in a lecture – it was just the worst thing. I was just so embarrassed.”

After that, she blocked him and deleted Tinder. Whenever someone asked her for her Snapchat since, she refused. She said: “I don’t want it to happen again.”

“Maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t think anything of it.”

As a study from 2020 showed, three-quarters of girls aged 12-18 have been sent unsolicited explicit images by boys or men, an experience 21-year-old Laura* shared.

When she was 15, she received an explicit picture of her friend’s boyfriend while in college.

She said: “I was in shock and messaged him asking why he had sent that. He replied that he had accidentally sent it to me instead of his girlfriend.

“Later it surfaced that he found me attractive and mentioned that to my friend, so I don’t think the photo was actually meant for my friend at all.”

As an active participant in the Londoner dating scene, Elena, 27, had many unfortunate incidents involving unsolicited sexually explicit content sent to her.

She said: “I hate them. They are unnecessary and I don’t ask for them. Ask me if I want to see a pic otherwise no thanks I guess.”

However, she does not see the need for regulation on cyberflashing. She argued: “It’s just a picture and that can’t do any harm really.

“I guess I would feel worse if someone sent me a puppy being hanged on a tree or something like that – then I prefer an ugly dick pic.”

Other offences included in the online safety bill are: sending or posting a message that conveys a threat of serious harm; sending a communication with the intent of causing psychological harm or serious emotional distress; and deliberately sending a false message with the intention of causing harm.

Additionally, the bill requires that platforms protect users from scam adverts and that commercial pornography sites carry out age checks on people trying to access their content.

Ofcom will be able to fine companies breaching this part of the new bill with up to 10 percent of a platforms global turnover.

*Name changed for privacy.

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