Cyberflashing should be made a specific sexual offence, says Law Commission

According to the body responsible for reviewing the law, unwanted explicit images on another device without the person’s consent should be made a specific sex offense as part of a major shake-up of rules governing abusive behavior online.

The Law Commission has recommended that the Sexual Offenses Act be amended to include cyber flashing – when a person sends an unwanted sexual photograph, or “d*** picture”, via file-sharing functions such as Apple’s AirDrop is.

There is currently no specific offense of cyber flashing, although the behavior may be considered offenses of harassment or public nuisance.

“Pile-on” harassment on the Internet, when more than one person sends harassing communications to a victim, should also be criminalized as part of a change to existing laws, which the body said was “really harmful behavior.” were “ineffective” in stopping. .

Its recommendations include adopting laws related to encouraging or glorifying self-harm and raising the threshold for “false communication” offenses, targeting people who intentionally spread theories about medical treatment that are not true. is believed.

The Law Commission said a new law should also be considered, which would criminalize sending flashing pictures intentionally with the intention of causing seizures to people suffering from epilepsy.

Professor Penny Lewis, the organisation’s criminal law commissioner, said: “Online abuse can cause untold harm to those targeted and change is needed to ensure that we are protecting victims from abuses such as cyberflashing and heap-harassment.

“At the same time, our reforms will better protect freedom of expression by reducing the reach of criminal law, so it criminalizes only the most harmful behavior.”

Digital and Culture Minister Carolyn Dinnage said: “We are putting new legal responsibilities on social media companies to protect the British public. But we have to be reassured that we continue to bully, abuse and spread hatred against individuals who use these sites. can also be held accountable for.

“I thank the Law Commission for its detailed recommendations, which we will consider carefully as we update our laws for the digital age, protecting freedom of speech while ensuring that what is unacceptable is Online is unacceptable.”

The first case of cyber flashing was reported by the police in 2015 when a commuter got two pictures of an unidentified man’s penis on his phone via airdrop as he came to work.

Since then, reports of cyber flashing have increased year over year, with data suggesting the number has increased Due to the digital nature of life in lockdown since covid.

A report from the University of Leicester found that a third of women reported having cyber flashes, while the UN Women report said: “These incidents are likely to increase as women and girls spend more time online during the pandemic.” “

A separate survey last summer by Glitch, an internet security charity, found that 17 percent of women or non-binary people had been sent unwanted pornography.

In March, the government announced that it was ask the public for help On how to deal with violence against women and girls in response to the anger that erupted after the Sarah Everard case.

The Home Office reopened a public consultation it said would help it update its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, with Home Secretary Priti Patel acknowledging that practices such as cyber flashing and upskirting had become a more widespread problem in the last decade. Whereas the law was not changed to reflect this.

PA. Additional reporting by

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