December 16, 2016 3:33 pm
Updated: December 16, 2016 3:53 pm

1 in 25 people are victims of ‘revenge porn’ new study says

One in 10 young women have been threatened with the possibility of public posting of nude photos.

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Jennifer Lawrence, Maisie Williams and Kate Upton are just some of the many celebrities who have had private nude photos leaked onto the internet over the years by hackers.

And while the public is at the very least familiar with these celebrity scandals, people are often unaware of how far of a reach this type of criminal activity has outside of Hollywood’s borders.

In fact, four per cent Americans – or one in 25 – have either been the victims of “revenge porn” threats or posts, a new study by Data & Society Research Institute revealed this week.

(Revenge porn – also referred to as non-consensual image sharing – is when someone shows, sends or posts nude or nearly nude photos or videos of someone else without the consent of the person pictured, the report states.)

“In some cases, the images are created consensually, such as when romantic partners take pictures for each other or together,” the report reads. “In other cases, these images may be created nonconsensually, such as when someone is secretly or forcibly photographed or taped.”

READ MORE: Google will honour requests to remove revenge porn

Sometimes, the authors say, the images are posted by a romantic partner after a bad breakup, or by a hacker stealing images from private devices.

“These threats can be used to coerce or control individuals and can cause significant mental distress, even if the photos themselves are never shared with others or posted publicly.”

Upon further breakdown, researchers found that young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are more likely to report being threatened with the potential sharing of explicit images compared to those over 30 (seven per cent and two per cent, respectively).

Young women are most often the targets as one in 10 have been threatened with the possibility of public posting of nude photos.

But when it comes to actually having images posted online, both young men and women are equally likely to have a photo published.

However, it’s internet users who identify as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual who receive the most threats and are more likely to actually have photos of them posted online (17 per cent).

Of those who reported threats or action of posting nude photos, 43 per cent say an online account or computer was hacked to steal the sensitive photos or information.

“The harms from nonconsensual image sharing can be substantial; a single act of posting sensitive images can cause lasting and ongoing reputational damage to victims,” the authors write. ‘These images are often posted alongside personally-identifying information about the victim when they are posting in online spaces, which can lead to additional harassment and threats from third parties.”

This proved to be true when a 31-year-old Italian woman committed suicide in September after her leaked sex tape became a meme.

READ MORE: Catfish beware: Facebook is working on a feature to alert users of online impersonation

Tiziana Cantone was found dead in her mother’s home in Naples less than a year following the release of a video that showed her performing oral sex, Global News reported.

According to Italian media, Canton sent the video to an ex-boyfriend and several friends she trusted, but the video was uploaded to several porn websites and shared through social media.

Laws protecting victims specifically from revenge porn are scarce.

In the U.S., some of the accused have been prosecuted under existing laws, like the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), for hacking, impersonation, identify theft and extortion, the report says.

“In response to the lack of specific criminal laws against nonconsensual pornography and a growing public awareness of the issue, more than 30 states have passed legislation over the past three years attempting to define and criminalize ‘revenge porn’ and other types of nonconsensual pornography,” the report details.

Progress has also been made in Canada with a new law in Manitoba targeting perpetrators of such content.

The law allows anyone in the province whose images are distributed without their permission to sue.

A previous report released in January by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection says it received close to 350 reports in a 10-month period of sexual images being shared online without people’s consent. Almost half of the report involved teens between 15 and 17.

According to two reports (here and here) from Global News, protecting yourself from hackers can be done in several ways.

For additional tips, visit the RCMP website.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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