Once an intimate video or image is shared online, it can become a nightmare for the subject to have it completely removed. Many people consent to being the subject of photographs or videos, with the intention that only an intimate partner or select few people will ever see them. However, once those images and videos are in the hands of others, it becomes very difficult to control where they end up. Increasingly, revenge porn is becoming a new way for people to engage in abuse against a current or former intimate partner. An article from the BBC indicates that reports of revenge porn in the UK increased by 22% in 2020 over the previous year. In Canada, a CBC article showed that police reports of non-consensual distribution of intimate images increased significantly across the country between 2015 and 2018. Ontario saw the biggest jump, from 114 reports to 456, with Quebec, Alberta and BC also showing significant increases.

What is Revenge Porn and What Makes it So Difficult to Combat?

Revenge porn occurs when someone uploads or distributes intimate videos or photos, of a sexual nature, to publicly accessible websites or social media, without the consent of everyone depicted in the images and videos. It often occurs after the breakdown of a relationship, when one person wants to humiliate their former partner, or even in an attempt to affect the outcome of family litigation (for example, in a case involving a dispute over parenting time).

The images and videos, once uploaded, can be extremely difficult to remove and delete, especially if they are made available for download by other users. Once others have the ability to ‘own’ the image or video, they can then repost it on various sites, which can make deletion a logistical nightmare.

Woman Discovers Video of Sexual Assault Posted by Ex-Husband

One woman who spoke with CTV’s W5 earlier this year found out how challenging it can be to remove images and videos from the internet, even when the event depicted was non-consensual. In 2020, the Alberta woman, named Rachel, opened an old hard drive belonging to her ex-husband, in order to back up her computer. She discovered many intimate photos of herself, some of which she had reluctantly posed for, assuming they would only ever be seen by her husband at the time.

She did a reverse-image search online and found that her ex had uploaded some of the photos to various porn sites. She then searched her husband’s username from the site and found that he had also uploaded a video depicting her, unconscious in her own bed. In the video, her husband moves her, touches her, and sexually assaults her. The video titles include search terms such as ‘while sleeping’ and ‘sleeping pills’. She had never seen the video before and was unaware the events depicted in the video had even taken place. When she found the video, it had been posted to one of the world’s largest and most popular porn sites for three years already. At the time it was uploaded, Rachel was still married to her ex.

Removing All Traces of Video Proves Difficult

Rachel immediately reported the posting to the RCMP, who were able to have it removed from the porn site within a few days. However, thumbnail images of the video, in which Rachel’s nude body was visible, remained available on the site, which could be viewed by searching in Google. When Rachel set about having these images wiped from the site, she found out that this task is quite complicated. She tried contacting the porn site directly, as well as Google. Google denied her request to remove the images since they were still viewable content on other sites. The porn site, meanwhile, told her it was her responsibility to contact Google to have the content removed.

After much back-and-forth contact between Rachel and the porn site, the site confirmed it had removed all traces of content from its archives. However, Rachel is still able to find still images and even the playable video in various locations across the internet if she searches the video by name. Importantly, the site porn site where the video was originally posted by Rachel’s ex used to allow users to download videos to their computers. The site no longer offers this feature, but there is no telling how many people have copies of the video, allowing it to be posted and shared into the future.

Contact Mincher Koeman for Skilled and Efficient Resolution to Matters Involving Revenge Porn in Calgary

If you are or have been the victim of revenge porn, you should contact the police immediately to report the offence. You should then seek legal advice to determine your options for civil remedies against the offender, and Mincher Koeman can help. If you are considering a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement, you can ensure greater protection for yourself in the event of a breakdown of your relationship by drafting an agreement that includes provisions to protect and compensate you should your partner ever post videos or photos of you online. Please contact our office to make an urgent appointment to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.

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