Nfld. & Labrador

Best way to avoid lawsuit for sharing 'revenge porn'? 'Don't do it,' says minister

The Act Respecting the Protection of Intimate Images was tabled in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

Act Respecting the Protection of Intimate Images introduced Tuesday

The best way to avoid being sued in civil court for sharing an intimate image without someone's consent is to just not do it, says Justice Minister Andrew Parsons. (CBC)

It's a "rampant" problem in today's society, and the Newfoundland and Labrador government wants people to think twice before sharing intimate images without consent.

At the House of Assembly Tuesday, Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons introduced the Act Respecting the Protection of Intimate Images, meant to protect victims who have had such images shared without their consent.

You see people going through it, and it's tough. It's a horrible, horrible thing to deal with.- Andrew Parsons

It will add legal options for people who have had private, sensitive images of them shared without their knowledge or permission, an act often referred to as "revenge porn". 

The legislation will allow those people to pursue cases in civil court.

"For the victim it is humiliating, it is embarrassing, and in some cases, it is life-altering," said Parsons.

"We must do more to protect people's privacy and to prevent this type of victimization."

Such intimate images depict nudity or sexual activity that were initially captured with consent, and where the person in the photo has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

For example, a person may allow intimate images to be taken of them in order to share them for personal use with a partner, or an otherwise limited number of people.

The act will be tabled in the House of Assembly and go through the reading process before being approved. (Diego Ciervo/iStock/Getty Images)

"This legislation will hopefully give power back to victims, hold people accountable for their actions, and hopefully will deter this negative behaviour in others," Parsons said.

"This is truly, I think, an excellent piece of legislation and it's going to help people."

The new act would put the onus on the person who shared the image, rather than on the victim, Parsons said, which would be difficult to do in a civil case.

"The negative action is upon the person who shares it, so if you want to do it, the burden is on you," Parsons said.

"You see people going through it, and it's tough. It's a horrible, horrible thing to deal with and the impact not just on you, but on your family, just how it impacts your mental health, walking out the door and wondering who's seen this image?"

Think before you act

Linda Ross, president of the provincial advisory council on the status of women, said it's a great piece of legislation that will update the laws with today's technology in mind.

"I think it's fantastic. I'm really pleased to see that — just as the minister said — it's one more tool, and I think it's an important tool because as we've said repeatedly, we have to get the message out that this is not acceptable," Ross said.

Linda Ross says 'revenge porn' and other intimate images are a 'rampant' issue in today's society, given the nature of modern technology. (CBC)

"The fact that the burden of proof is on the person who's sharing the images I think is radically different than anything that we're accustomed to seeing, and I think in and of itself should give people pause for thought."

Ross said that this kind of violation of privacy has been around for a long time, but has become a "rampant" issue with modern technology.

'Don't be stupid'

Both Parsons and Ross agreed that educating young people is the next obvious step.

"Can it impact my academic future? My future career? The concern and the worry is immeasurable and it is this fear of, what are they going to think of me?" Ross said.

"The victim is the one who really suffers as the result of this."

And the best way to avoid being sued for sharing an image without someone's consent is pretty easy, Parsons said.

"Don't do it. Just don't do it," Parsons said. "Don't be stupid."

Parsons hopes the act will be passed in the House of Assembly before it adjourns its current sitting in December.

To be enacted, it will need to go through both a vote and a reading process.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen