Last week, Webwise hosted an internet safety panel discussion at Zeminar Youth Conference, an event that focuses on the mental and physical wellbeing of 15-20-year-olds. The one-hour discussion hosted by Stephen Byrne (RTÉ) addresses important online issues for teens including online exploitation, peer-led anti-bullying campaigns and non-consensual sharing of explicit images.
Members of the Webwise Youth Panel and ISSU (Irish Secondary Students’ Union) discussed the importance of youth-led campaigns in tackling internet safety issues within their own schools and communities. In addition, panelists highlighted the Webwise Safer Internet Day Ambassador Programme and actions they had been involved in through the Youth Panel. Youth Panelists were joined by Limerick native Luke Culhane, creator of a powerful anti-bullying campaign and video titled Create No Hate. To date Luke’s video has an impressive 15 million views, Luke shared his experience of creating a powerful message that resonated with young people around the world.
Detective Sergeant Michael Smyth, Online Child Exploitation Unit (OnCE), An Garda Síochána delivered a talk on the topic of online sexual coercion and extortion of young people. DS Michael Smyth, also showcased the Europol Say No Campaign addressing the same topic.
Finally, Stephen Byrne was joined by Megan Nolan (Writer and Journalist – Sunday Times style Magazine) and Rachel O’Neill (Editor of the College Tribune) to discuss the consequences of sharing nudes. The panel discussion addressed issues including media influence, victim blaming, peer pressure, legal consequences and where to find help and support. Following the Seminar event, Rachel O’Neill shares her thoughts on the topic.
Sharing Nudes: The Consequences
by Rachel O’Neill
Technology has evolved faster than any of us could have imagined. I have distant memories of dial up internet that myself and my brother used to squabble over just to waste half an hour waiting for it to connect. Having the entire internet in a device the size of a deck of cards is something we’ve all just become used to over the years. But what happens when we become too familiar with the technology? What happens when we start using this technology for things like sharing intimate photos or nudes of ourselves with our partners or someone we like?
I’ve grown up in an era where sending nudes has become more normalised and the pressure to send them has increased exponentially. That is not normal. There is an inherent pressure, particularly on girls to send nudes to boys they like or are in a relationship with. If these nudes are shared in the public domain, it is the girl who is blamed. I am not here to tell you if it’s right or wrong to send nudes. However, if you do send them, you must also consider what happens if they are shared beyond the intended recipient without your consent.
From the offset it should be said that if you have nude photos of someone who is under the age of 18 then you could be charged with possession of child pornography which could see you spend up to 3 years in prison. Sending or sharing nudes is something which should not be taken lightly. Possession of child pornography will remain on your criminal record forever. It would prevent you getting a VISA to travel to the US so that’s your J1 plans out the window.
It is extremely rare that a digital record can be erased permanently from the internet. Even if you delete a photo from Facebook or Twitter, it is still out there on the internet somewhere. If a nude is shared to Facebook or Twitter, a record of it will still exist somewhere even if it’s deleted. Think about that for a second. It is very common practice for potential employers to conduct a web search on their applicants. If they find a nude online of one of those applicants, how likely are they to employ that person? Is it fair that companies refuse to employ someone based on what they do outside of work or what may have been shared without their consent? Probably not. Unfortunately reputation is everything to most companies and as a result, keeping your digital record as clean as possible has now become imperative.
There are many consequences to sending nudes and sharing them without someone else’s permission (revenge porn). The Irish government is expected to bring in legislation later this year to criminalise revenge porn. However, this will not deal with the victim blaming that is associated with revenge porn. It should be stated that if someone’s nudes are shared on a public domain without their consent it is not their fault. At that stage, there is never any point in asking if the nude should have been sent in the first place, it is too late for that. At this point we should really be trying to prevent the rampant victim blaming that occurs here.
A perfect example of this was the iCloud leak of 2014 where a number of prominent female celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence had their private Apple accounts hacked and their intimate photos were shared across the web. Instead of questioning the how someone’s privacy could be so easily hacked into, many commentators chose instead to blame the women for taking the photos. Instead of victim blaming, we should be asking questions about security on our accounts and how much we trust things like Google Drive and iCloud. It’s never the victim’s fault if their nudes are spread online without their consent, it is the fault of the person who spread them.
Trying to navigate through the world now is difficult and everyone will make mistakes, that’s human nature. Bearing that in mind, we need to change the culture around nudes. Nobody should ever be pushed into doing anything they’re not comfortable with. Never pressurize anyone to send nudes or share anyone’s nudes with anyone else. Nobody’s trust should ever be betrayed like that and the consequences could last a lot longer than the Snapchat.
Webwise offer free resources addressing the non-consensual sharing of images. The Lockers resource can be accessed here: webwise.ie/lockers/