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Revenge Pornography

Privacy is becoming priceless in the present world where people crave for the exhibition of others' personal space. Revenge pornography or non-consensual dissemination of intimate images has emerged as a modern tool to threaten, brutally punish and use people for egoistic desires. It is a bitter truth that we live in a society where rape and harassment videos are eagerly searched by many people and online shaming has become a pleasure. Many people irrespective of their gender, fall in this trap and become a prey for wicked and cruel men. Sharing intimate images with the partner has become a need to satisfy love and acceptance.

Sadly, in many cases the victims could not raise their voice against the injustice that happened to them. Lack of morality and vengeance push the victim into a vulnerable dark. Revenge pornography is a vigorously growing crime in India. Fighting against online shaming is not a simple thing perhaps a strong battle. The victim faces shame to the core and it is a sensible and painstaking issue to deal with.

This paper will discuss in detail about the definition and history of revenge porn, its difference from pornography, reasons and preventive measures for non-consensual dissemination of intimate images. It also deals with the prevailing laws, rights of victims and their sufferings. Adding to this, it speaks about the part of social media in controlling revenge porn.

Revenge pornography basically deals about stalking or misusing personal and private data. It is the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos without their consent. It is also a domestic violence against women. The aim of the culprit is to shame the victim, to disturb them or even as a revenge. Sometimes, non-revenge type image based sexual abuse also takes place. It differs from Revenge porn as it does not have any motive for revenge. This often happens randomly as well as anonymously. In all such cases, distributing not only means circulating it with the photos in live but also in online uploads.

When a person uploads another person's nudes or semi-nudes or private videos without the consent of the victim either in porn sites or in social media, it is said to be revenge pornography. Merely exposing one's semi-nudes or a bathing suit picture does not cover this area. The printed picture or the online circulated pictures must contain the victim's genitals, anus or any other private organ which is not meant to be shown at any cost to anyone.

One may use this method for several reasons like to force them to get involved in the other sexual activities, to ask them to continue their relationship or to punish them as a revenge for dumping them. Revenge pornography is a sub-type of cyberstalking. Such kind of cyberstalking need not be done only by the persons to whom the victims sent their personal photos/videos but also be done by the hackers. Most probably, these hackers get access to these private matters and demand for money. If not, he threatens them that the video or photos will be uploaded online.

Not all hackers demand money, some of them get their heads involved in these matters demanding sex or sexual favours. Experts claim that it should not be termed under pornography. As it differs in many ways from pornography, it should not be called so. In other words, it should be coined as image based sexual abuse.

Origin Of Revenge Pornography

The first celebrity victim to suffer in this field was former American actress Marilyn Monroe. Hugh Hefner, the former head of the playboy magazine, launched his first issue with one of the most fascinating and a much familiar iconic star of film's golden age. He did not just address her with her photos, he expressed her nudes in the magazine. The magazine became an instant success and sold around 50000 copies. This became a very serious and sensational issue at the time of the incident. Monroe never signed a contract or agreement regarding these exposed images. The published magazines were completely against her will.

Before Monroe hit big, she was in an emergency of money. Thus, she posed nude for a photographer named Tom Kelley in exchange for fifty dollars. Kelley sold the exposed image of Monroe to a Western calendar company. Things were pretty good for Monroe at that time. Four years later, Monroe's nudes resurfaced America. Hefner purchased the photographs for 500$ and made the iconic centre page of the edition.

Monroe explained in an interview that she had been desperate for money then and so she posed for the new photos[1]. The necessity of a common woman created a huge impact in the beginning of an era. Poor Monroe wouldn't have thought such an awkward situation even in her dreams.

Following the incident of Marilyn Monroe, revenge porn targeted its next victim during the period of 1980's. A stolen nude was uploaded in the Hustler's Beaver Hunt. Beaver Hunt is a pornographic magazine focused on men[2]. The 20th century doesn't have much incidents in the name of revenge pornography. Revenge porn took a new avatar in the millennium year. The craze for revenge porn was very little in the early 2000s.

The development of YouTube, Red tube and other porn sites were famous only after 2005. The enormous amount of availability of internet and access to the unlimited data services were granted only in the next decade. The level of porn viewers increased one-third when the free internet access was given in 2016.

Difference Between Pornography And Revenge Pornography

The primary difference between pornography and revenge pornography is the purpose of the video. Pornographic content- oriented videos are recorded for the purpose of making and uploading porn videos whereas revenge pornography is not recorded for uploading the videos.

Likewise, the goal and motto of the persons who upload also differ. Porn is uploaded for various reasons like to increase the rank of the porn stars, to find profit, to establish a name and fame in the porn industry etc., Revenge porn is uploaded for the reasons like insulting the victim, making the video viral, for revenge and some even do this without any expectations but fun.

Revenge porn may or may not have the victim's consent but in pornography, the consent is given wholeheartedly by the concerned person. Mostly, revenge porn revolves around stalking. Placing hidden cameras in the bathrooms and trial rooms of women are the most found sources in the revenge pornography field.

Another source is morphing the face of a porn star and placing the victim's face. Some people might do this even to their girlfriends, as a revenge for dumping them.
On the other side, porn films needn't be done with the help of hidden cameras. Instead, it is recorded using high resolution cameras. Similarly, there is no place for morphing and stalking as porn films are made with the complete consent of the actors.

Revenge porn seems to be realistic whereas Porn films exaggerate. Revenge porn is something which is very personal and private. Porn is made for a public purpose and so it doesn't seem private and personal.

Direct involvement in the course of action can be noted when it comes to revenge pornography but, porn revolves around and is based on a story. There is no shade of a story or exaggeration in revenge porn. It completely deals with leaked, private and realistic contents. Porn gives them profit and gains, but revenge porn provides them shame and depression. The average age period of the victim is about 11-25[3]. Generally, teenagers and adults are the ones who fall into this sinkhole. Porn has neither age bar nor restrictions. The porn universe has a variety of people in their respective age groups.

Reasons For Revenge Porn

  • The intimate images of a person are being released mainly in quest of vengeance for winding up relationships[4]. Though both men and women could be victims, women are exceptionally becoming the targets. In maximum cases, it is women who con-sensually share their nude images and videos to the person they are in love with which becomes a self-trap for themselves. Well, this later ends up in a really tragic way, in which the person uploads those contents without the girl's consent, once they are dumped. Here, it is done with the main intention to shame the woman and defame her[5]. Revenge is a part of the feel and expression of hatred for the one who uploads it. The concerned person feels like he had punished his ex-lover for breaking up the relationship with him. It also includes doxing i.e. the personal information like name and contact number of the victims are shared along with their intimate images.
     
  • This is a little strange case in which a person posts his girlfriend's intimate images and videos just to ‘show off' to other people. This may sound weird but now-a-days, it is one of the most prevailing reasons for revenge porn in social media. Here, a person records his own sexual videos with or without the girl's consent. Later, he releases it on the internet or shares it with others to grab their attention and it becomes a pleasure for him as he considers himself smart in doing such things. Hence, this is done to attract and impress people in some ways; these persons could be termed as Narcissist.
     
  • A person also uses such videos to extract money, official and sexual favours from the victim. A decade ago, it was a problem that mostly affected the celebrities but now it collapses the lives of many common women also. In this case, the intimate images of women are generally taken without their consent and are even sexually morphed. The guy then uses such images to threaten the victim in a brutal way and she is supposed to fulfil all his demands to stop him from posting them.

Revenge Porn- Victim's View

Many people eagerly search for more realistic and natural sexual content but how would it feel if a person's naked body was exposed to the entire world to see without their consent or knowledge? The utmost intimate and personal moments of a person are revenged for a bruised ego. A girl falls into deep psychological trauma, depression and grief when she comes to know that she had been shamed and bullied on the internet. She becomes humiliated, embarrassed and anxiety hits her even harder.

Her dreams are shattered and she suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[6]. Living in a secular country like India and a society which is entirely judgemental, the victim literally sinks in a pit of depression without proper guidance. It takes too long for the victim to throw away the confusion, guilt, anger, silence and gather all her courage to fight back.

It not only affects the victim but also her entire family and social circle. She will not be able to face or justify herself to anyone because our society considers a girl who sends her intimate images to a guy as a scarlet woman. She is shamed as a low life slut.

The sad part is that everyone including her family members show a negative and revolting reaction to the incident and the first thing which strikes the victim's mind is ‘suicide'. The victim decides in a moment of shame and uncertainty to end her life without considering the consequences of her ill thought out decision.

A woman faces extreme suppression and shame in the society when she tries to fight against the cruel incident. Many teenage victims drop the school and lock themselves up in a small circle since they are scared to face the people. Though many laws exist to punish these immoral activities, there are many practical difficulties for the victim to move legally. She has to explain her situation with proper evidence to authorities of all levels never minding they are male or female.

However, most of them are judgemental and criticize the victim. This is very embarrassing for the victim as she has to disclose her intimate images that have been uploaded. And it takes a long period to completely remove the content because it is not only seen but shared repeatedly to many websites worldwide. She has to struggle all this way to get justice finally. But justice is not the only thing which could compensate for her loss.

It is not enough to fetch her respect, dignity, freedom back unless our society changes its view towards the victims. The victims lead a cruel life with pains and scares until she pulls out her ultimate fortitude to stand up for herself and restart a new life.

Impact Of Revenge Pornography In Social Media

Social Media has the power of circulating the news and information either in positive or negative ways. It serves not only as a tool for communication but also as a platform for exchanging and sharing information. Thus, the first source for revenge porn to become viral is social media. If social media is under control, then the crisis of revenge porn will be reduced to a great extent. Revenge porn starts with cyberbullying. The person who bullies will directly circulate it in the social media as his next move. Of course, there are a lot of social media platforms available now. In the early days of 2000's Facebook was the one and only mass media platform.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook sorted out this problem and made a solution for this emerging problem. He figured out all the profiles which promote or encourage revenge porn and put a full stop to this issue. It was not completely killed. However, the impact reduced a lot. It even warned the wrongdoers that they may have to face legal issues. Facebook and Twitter are completely against this concept of non-consensual or revenge pornography.

Twitter shut down each and every such profile during the issue. Facebook and Twitter are the only platforms to reduce the impact of the issue when no other social media gave a helping hand. YouTube came up with a restriction by age. No person under 18 can access adult content videos on YouTube. The adult content videos were also allowed only to some extent. If the content is too sensitive, actions will be taken regarding their channels.

As far as social media is concerned, there is a huge probability for misusing than using wisely. As the transfer of files is restricted in the fundamental social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, people must find an alternate source for circulating.

WhatsApp permits only to some extent. The ultimate transfer tool for videos under the department of Revenge pornography is Telegram. Telegram is a recently found app which is used as an alternative for WhatsApp. It almost has every single essential feature from WhatsApp and added some extra features which WhatsApp doesn't have like downloading files irrespective of the file size etc.,

Most of the telegram users access telegram for downloading movies from pirated sites and for peeping into the video links of the revenge pornography victims. When it comes to Instagram, one cannot directly upload the video/photo in their personal Instagram accounts if the content is too sensitive. If uploaded so, not only the video, but also the current ID will become unavailable permanently. Thus, one must share the link to the other via any available social media platform to view it through the website if he wishes to seek it without getting involved in any risks.

This is the safest means of enjoying the private data without being caught. Apparently, telegram need not require these kinds of hide and seek games. The respective video can be directly sent without being questioned. Similar things happen in WhatsApp too. The only difference is that telegram has no file size limit. Thus, one can even send the full movie without being interrupted by any obstacles which is practically impossible in any other social media platforms including WhatsApp. Even telegram has a restriction option to a point. The telegram channel can be blocked if it contains spam, violence, child abuse and pornography contents. Still, the private chat is end to end encrypted.

The chats and files shared will be private. People choose telegram over WhatsApp not only for the file size limit, but also for a fear of being watched. There is a superstition that WhatsApp peeps into private chats but a belief that telegram is so encrypted that even the operators can't peep into the chats. Since there are no issues in the privacy, the chat continues without fear. Unless or until a doubt arises for the users about the privacy of the telegram encrypted chats, the circulation will not stop.

Although, telegram by itself does not support revenge pornography, it is being misused as a server for the purpose. As telegram app is taken for granted to circulate revenge porn by these predators, detectives came up with a solution. The telegram app allows everybody to join the group chats anonymously. Therefore, 433 detectives from Lahav joined the group, spent several months investigating and dragged some culprits out of it. By finding so, they came up with 12 major circulators, arrested and sentenced them[7] .

Punishments
As Revenge pornography is considered as a crime, it is punished with both imprisonment and fine. Some people consider it as virtual rape. The United states government strictly prohibits revenge pornography. Several laws are implemented and are followed in most of the states. Sadly, India did not make up a new law regarding revenge pornography. Since, there is no particular law for revenge pornography in India, the accused is punished with various Sections under various acts. The punishments are dealt under the Information Technology Act and the Indian Penal Code. The IT Act deals with the Sections of 66E, 67 and 67A.

The accused is also punished under Indian Penal Code under the Sections of 500, 504, 506,509, 354, 354A, 354C and 354. The imprisonment may extend according to the vigour of the crime. Usually, the imprisonment will be not exceeding 3 years. Yet, there are some exceptions in which the imprisonment may extend to 5 years.

The culprit is punished by the Indian Penal Code,1860 under the Sections of:

  • Section 500: Defaming the concerned persons
  • Section 504: Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace
  • Section 506: Punishment for criminal intimidation
  • Section 509: Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman
  • Section 354: Outraging the modesty of a woman
  • Section 354A: Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment
  • Section 354C: Voyeurism
  • Section 354D: Stalking

He is punished by the Information Technology Act under the Sections of:

  • Section 66E: Intentionally capturing and publishing the private area of a person or violating the privacy of a person
  • Section 67: Transmitting the private media in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or tends to deprave and corrupt
  • Section 67A: Stipulated punishment for publishing and transmitting of material containing sexually explicit acts etc., in electronic form

Preventive Measures
  • The total eradication of revenge porn is quite an impossible task. However, it could be minimized to a great extent. Sadly, there is a very big market for revenge porn in our society which encourages a person to use these sensible contents for his selfish purposes. People who search for revenge pornography should think about the consequences faced by victims. Unless people understand the pain of victims and start acting against revenge pornography, it cannot be controlled.
     
  • Trust is the basic root for revenge porn because in maximum cases, women willingly share their private images to their lovable ones. So, the first step in prevention of this lies in the hands of victims themselves. A woman must be very cautious about whom she trusts. The best option is to avoid sharing one's private images with others.
  • A person should think morally before uploading sexual content without consent. There may be many ways to revenge a person but no woman deserves her body to be exposed to the world.
     
  • The legal authorities must be easy for the victim to approach and should not embarrass her with judgemental thoughts. Many victims face slut-shaming especially in the police station which makes her feel devastated. Punishments for the criminals should be severe and there should not be any delay in taking actions against them.
     
  • Once a girl becomes a victim of revenge porn, she becomes a cheap creature in the eyes of the society. This mentality of people should be changed. Family members and the society should act as supporting systems for the victim and give her courage to face the situation. Government could set up special organizations to completely guide the victim legally and mentally.
     
  • The revenge porn sites should respond immediately and take actions to remove a sensible content shared without consent.

Conclusion
Online shaming is not only a crime but also a venom that ruthlessly shipwrecks the lives of many people. In India, laws should be made specifically against revenge porn and the criminals should be punished severely to expel it from the country.

Besides that, we must create a consistent environment which supports the victim to courageously fight against this cold-blooded as well as inhumane crime. The number of viewers is directly proportional to the number of makers. As long as the viewers increase, the makers also increase.

Therefore, if the viewers start showing some courtesy towards the victims, the maker will definitely reduce his actions because of low support and no attention. The ultimate control of revenge porn circulation is in the hands of porn viewers.

End-Notes:
  1. Amanda Luz Henning Santiago, The Strange story of how Marilyn Monroe appeared nude in the first issue of Playboy, BUSINESS INSIDER, (Sept. 28, 2017, 08:32 PM), https://www.businessinsider.in/the-strange-story-of-how-marilyn-monroe-appeared-nude-in-the-first-issue-of-playboy/articleshow/60873282.cms.
  2. Emma Grey Ellis, It's Time for Facebook to Deal With the Grimy History of Revenge Porn, WIRED (March 14, 2017, 04:49 PM), https://www.wired.com/2017/03/revenge-porn-facebook/.
  3. Joseph Milord, What's the average age of revenge porn victims, ELITE DAILY, (July 15, 2017), https://www.elitedaily.com/news/age-youre-mostly-likely-victim-revenge-porn/2018153.
  4. JPH v. XYZ & Ors, MANU/UKWQ/0192/2015.
  5. YouTube singer Chrissy Chambers wins revenge porn case, BBC NEWS (Jan. 17,2018), https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42720869.
  6. What is posttraumatic stress disorder? AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd.
  7. Toi Staff, 12 arrested in ‘revenge porn' crackdown after sharing nude photos on Telegram, THE TIMES OF ISRAEL (Nov. 6, 2019, 11:10 PM), https://www.timesofisrael.com/12-arrested-in-revenge-porn-crackdown-after-sharing-nude-photos-on-telegram/.
Written By:
  1. Aditya Krishnan.B - II Year B. Com.; LL. B(Hons.,), Sastra Deemed To Be University
    Email: [email protected], Contact no:6383256196
  2. Keerthana.M - II Year BBA.; LL. B(Hons.,), Sastra Deemed To Be University
    Email: [email protected], Contact no: 6379788133

    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JU016863670764-6-1620

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