Sharing 'revenge porn' should be a crime, Parliament hears

Cape Town - Sharing sexually-explicit material to cause distress and without the consent of the subject should be a criminal act, Parliament's Communications Portfolio Committee has heard.

“The victim's consent in taking the photograph or video is not relevant if it is shared without consent,” Media Monitoring Africa's Policy Head Thandi Smith told the committee on Wednesday.

The committee held public hearings into the Film and Publications Board Amendment Bill this week, aimed at sharpening laws governing online media.

Smith said MMA was pleased that the bill's definition of "revenge porn" included the effects of "added distress" to the victims, but sought to narrow some definitions.

“We request that the bill tighten the wording; that it is a criminal act when sexually-implicit material is shared without the subject's consent, for the intention to harm or embarrass, or for financial gain.”

Last week, Margaret van Wyk, a Schweizer-Reneke resident, accidentally sent a picture of her genitals, meant for her husband, to the hockey parents’ group of her children’s school.

Social media law expert Emma Sadleir told the committee on Tuesday that her mistake caused a national circus, and the distribution of such content should be illegal, Netwerk24 reported.

Children's rights

MMA addressed the lack of participation from children in the formulation of the bill. Smith said children should be allowed to contribute to laws affecting them.

“Children are the most marginalised when it comes to coverage in the media, so naturally the web needs to take that into account,” Smith said.

“It is imperative that a public participation process includes the views of children, as Section 28 of the Constitution allows for.”

Google SA told the committee on Wednesday that preventing child sex abuses was paramount in online media.

“We remove child pornography and any child sex abuse material immediately when we become aware of its presence on our search engine and report it to law enforcement officials,” the company’s Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda said.

They had problems with the wording of section 18D of the bill, and asked that it be aligned with the already existing Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.

“In order to commit an offence under this section, Google would have to have actual knowledge of the prohibited content, something which is not possible as we do not monitor content that users send and receive.”

The public hearings will continue next Tuesday.

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