LIFESTYLE
20/01/2017 10:40 SAST | Updated 20/01/2017 16:26 SAST

Revenge Porn May Soon Be A Criminal Act, According To New Cybercrimes Bill

An announcement about the new clause added to the Cybercrimes Bill was made by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

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Revenge porn may soon be a criminal act.

Sending nude images or videos to a partner (or potential partner) might seem fun and harmless, but what happens when those photos or videos are posted online without your consent? Decidedly less fun and, in some instances, career-ending humiliations.

Posting sexually explicit images without the consent of the subject, usually done by a former sexual partner with the intention to cause the subject harm, is known as "revenge porn". It is still not a criminal act in South Africa, leaving victims of revenge porn — the people who have had their images posted online without their consent — with little by way of legal recourse. But that looks likely to change with the new and proposed Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill headed to Parliament in a few weeks. The bill, first drafted in 2015, aims to "create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cybercrime", and now includes a clause that will "criminalise the harmful disclosure of pornography". This includes revenge porn.

In a media briefing on Thursday, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffrey said that the bill criminalises "cyber-facilitated offences", and this included all forms of "fraud, forgery, uttering and extortion". The new section of the bill was reportedly based on the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007. "The proposed amendment aims to criminalise the disclosure of pornography, threats to disclose pornography and disclosure or threats to disclose pornography for the purposes of obtaining any advantage from a person," Jeffrey said.

Celebrities, too, have fallen victim to revenge porn — even when the perpetrators were not vindictive ex-lovers. In 1995, actress and former "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson had a sex tape with musician Tommy Lee stolen from their home and sold to a video distribution company. They eventually took legal action and won the case. Perhaps the most famous victim of revenge porn is Kim Kardashian, whose sex tape with then-boyfriend Ray J launched her career in reality television. In 2014, a number of celebrities including Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence were victims of a mass leak of nude photographs after their iCloud accounts were hacked.

Jeffrey emphasised that the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill will not be used for state surveillance, saying that no hardware or data may be seized from individuals without a warrant. He concluded by saying that bolstering cybersecurity was essential in the face of "the ongoing development of information communication technology", adding that it is essential to protect the country's security and economic well-being.