France has seen a spike in revenge porn posted online during the Covid-19 lockdown, and it is not a leap to suppose there will be a similar rise in the UK. In this article, Emily Cox, a partner in our Media Disputes team, considers what legal options a victim has during the lockdown.   

The reported increase in revenge porn in France includes a wave of photographs and videos of young women posted on social media platforms without their consent by accounts with names including the term “ficha” or “fisha.

At a time when sexual activity for many has moved online to comply with social distancing, it is fair to suppose that there will be a similar rise in revenge porn (as well as online sexual harassment and blackmail) in the UK. But the lockdown does not mean victims are without legal options.

If a sexual photograph or video has been posted on social media, the first port of call is to contact the social media platform and ask them to take it down on the basis that it was posted without consent.

As for civil remedies, the courts of England and Wales remain open for business with interim applications, hearings and full trials being conducted virtually. The default position is that these will proceed as usual.

As such, if an individual has made credible threats to publish revenge porn or has already disseminated it on a limited basis, the option of a telephone or virtual application for an injunction remains. The injunction could require delivery up of the material, in addition to the usual mandate that it is not published.

Where revenge porn is published, but the identity of the individual publisher is not known (as in the “ficha”/”fisha” example), a Norwich Pharmacal order is a useful tool. This would be made against the social media platform or internet service provider, requiring them to disclose the identity of the individual posting the material. The wonderfully named Spartacus Order can similarly be obtained, requiring the anonymous individual posting the material to reveal their identity.

Following that, and where the identity of the publisher is known, a claim for breach of confidence and misuse of private information offers the possibility of damages. But perhaps more compellingly, it offers further disincentive to the publisher and third parties involved to disclose the material further .

 


 

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