What is revenge porn?

Revenge pornography is the distribution of intimate images without the consent of the person depicted.  Sometimes it’s done by angry ex-partners, other times to make money, or sometimes the motive is unclear. It’s also called “non-consensual pornography” or “image-based sexual abuse.”  Most often the distribution happens online, but it can also be done by sharing printed copies.  Here are some common types of this abuse:

  • Image posted to social media: Many mainstream websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr have policies either banning nudity/pornography altogether or allowing victims of revenge porn to request that the image be taken down.  Even so, intimate images do get posted on these sites.  Take a look at our Takedown Resources to learn more about how to get internet companies to remove images.
  • Image posted to porn or revenge porn sites: Most porn websites allow users to freely upload explicit videos, which anyone can then access for free.  The law protects websites from legal liability if they post user-generated content without editing it — they’re considered platforms not publishers, even though they catalog the content, get rid of material they don’t like and sell ads against it.  The result is that non-consensual pornography content is readily distributed on big, powerful platforms. Pornhub, RedTube, Xvideos and Xtube are some of the world’s most visited websites.  Other sites specialize in revenge porn only, such as myex.com or the now-defunct isanyoneup.com.  It’s much harder to get these websites to take down material than mainstream websites.   Visit our Takedown Resources to learn more.
  • Images sent directly to friends, family or place of work: Some perpetrators prefer to send intimate images directly via text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat or even regular mail.  This can feel more personal and pointed than images hosted somewhere in the vast internet.  Find out how to report harassing users to mainstream chat apps here.
  • Doxxing:  You’ve been doxxed when someone publishes private or identifying information about you (such as name, email address, home address) online without your consent. This is often done alongside an intimate picture or false information about you (like “Mary, pictured above, will have sex with you for drugs, her address is 11 Bridge Street”) and is designed to embarrass or scare you. If this has happened to you, the person who did it may be guilty of defamation, breach of privacy, harassment or other offenses.
  • Child pornography: Producing, distributing or possessing intimate images of children younger than 18 is a serious crime that often results in jail time. If someone did this to you, you may have rights to sue the person who took or posted the picture to compensate you for the harm done. It is also child pornography when someone under 18 years old takes an explicit image of himself or herself and sends it to someone else. Both the sender and recipient are in violation of child pornography laws in this case, even if the recipient is also under 18. You can find more information on child pornography here.
  • Blackmail, extortion, “sextortion”: Sometimes people threaten to release your intimate image unless you give them money or more photos, stay in a relationship you want to leave, or do something else you don’t want to do. In most places this is a crime and you can ask the police to intervene.  You can check our Summary of applicable laws where you live page to learn more.
  • Deepfakes: These are typically created when someone uses artificial intelligence to blend a true image of the victim’s face (often taken from social media) with a pornographic image or video of someone else’s body. The result can be so realistic that it is particularly distressing. You can learn more about deepfakes here.
  • Cyber-flashing: AirDrop or Bluetooth can be used to anonymously send unsolicited pornographic images directly to unsuspecting recipients’ devices. A common example is when someone sends a “dick pic” to a stranger standing nearby in a crowded train. Visit Our Recommendations for UK laws page to learn more about cyber-flashing.

If any of the above happened to you or somebody you know, the police or a lawyer may be able to help.

If you want to contact the police or a lawyer, it is crucial to collect as much evidence as you can.  Here’s a guide to assembling relevant evidence.

If you wish to discuss your case with a lawyer, please take a look at the services we provide in the Legal Help section of this website.

Honza CervenkaWhat is revenge porn?

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