October 31, 2017 5:07 pm
Updated: November 1, 2017 12:25 pm

Sask. government unveil legislation to help revenge porn victims

It’s called "revenge porn" but it is so much more than just revenge or pornography. It is a broken trust and victims are left feeling powerless. The Saskatchewan government wants to change that with its first piece of legislation for the fall sitting. David Baxter has more on a change to the Privacy Act which makes it easier for victims to sue for damages, and more importantly, regain a sense of control of their lives.

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Attorney General and Justice Minister Don Morgan presented new legislation to the assembly on Tuesday that will allow people whose intimate images have been shared without consent to sue their alleged offender in civil action.

“This bill sends a strong message that this callous, criminal behaviour has consequences and that the Government of Saskatchewan stands with the victims of this type of attack,” Morgan said.

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The amendment made to the Privacy Act will allow someone who’s had intimate images shared online without consent to sue the person who shared the images with civil action.

READ MORE: Sask. privacy laws outdated and difficult to navigate: commissioner

The legislation also shifts the onus of proof from the defendant to the plaintiff.

“If an image has been posted, the person who posted the image will have to prove that they did have consent from the person that was in the image,” Morgan explained.

After the legislation was first announced in the throne speech on Oct. 25, Morgan said he didn’t know the scope of the issue in Saskatchewan. However, this will give victims another tool to use.

These proposed Privacy Act changes will also remove the requirement that these proceedings take place in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Proceedings will be able to be heard in small claims court of Queen’s Bench.

Alec Couros studies digital citizenship, and called this a valuable piece of legislation. He said the value lies in the prevalence of social media and how it has developed an at times too open sharing culture.

“As we get into these new forms of dating and the way that we date and the types of images that we’re sharing I think this is becoming obviously more of a problem,” Couros said.

“And it’s something that we have to put some margins around.”

This legislation will also give victims the ability to obtain a court order to remove the images from the internet. Corous said while this is legally possible, it may be much more difficult to achieve in a vast digital universe.

“It would be very, very difficult to take these images down. You would perhaps have to deal with governments that aren’t as friendly to this legislation,” Couros said.

An alternative Couros pitched is the “right to be forgotten” legislation that exists in the European Union. There, people can petition Google and other search engines to remove results for intimate images. This can effectively bury the content, he said.

This legislation also aims to define the term “intimate images.” Legally, this would mean visual images, including photos and video, in which a person is nude, partially nude, or engaged in an explicit sexual activity, that was made in circumstances that implied a reasonable expectation of privacy.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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