Margharet's picture 'an example of how sexting can go wrong'

2016-08-31 13:55
(File, News24)

(File, News24)

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Cape Town – The distribution of a private image sent to a hockey parents' group by accident is an example of how nude pictures could “go wrong” in the digital era, Parliament has heard.

“It caused a national circus. It is an example of how badly things can go wrong,” social media law expert Emma Sadleir told Parliament’s communication portfolio committee on Tuesday, during discussions about the Film and Publications Amendment Bill, Netwerk24 reported.

She was referring to Schweizer-Reneke resident Margharet van Wyk, who accidentally sent a picture of her genitals, meant for her husband, to the hockey parents’ group of her children’s school.

The bill in its current format would make the distribution of nude pictures without the individual’s consent illegal.

- Read more: Facebook, Twitter and harassment - what can be done?

Sadleir said everybody has access to public platforms these days – “a frightening thought” - which led to over-documentation.

“This has led to an epidemic of sexual messages (sexting). It has become a social norm for teenagers to send nude pics to one another. In the digital era everyone is a celebrity.”

Problems arose when people resent pictures without the original sender’s permission; when phones were stolen; or when networks were hacked, like what happened to actress Jennifer Lawrence.

- Read more: Jennifer Lawrence wants leaked nude pics investigated

In other cases, people sent the image to the wrong people by accident and it was spread from there. This was what happened in Van Wyk’s case.

She also used this example to point out a problem in the bill.

In its current format, the bill refers to the distribution with ill intent of nude images or video material.

According to Sadleir there was no ill intent in the Van Wyk case. People shared the image for “fun”.

“Motive is not relevant. Victims suffer damages regardless of the perpetrators’ intent. People say she [Van Wyk] brought this upon herself. I strongly disagree.”

The current bill treats teenagers whose nude pictures are distributed with or without their permission as perpetrators, when in fact they are victims, she said.

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