Sharing naked pictures or videos of yourself with a spouse, boy or girlfriend or even random strangers online might seem like a good idea at the time, but it can have devastating consequences.
Campbell River RCMP say they are seeing an increase in reports from residents regarding privately shared intimate images or videos of have ended up on the internet, specifically revenge porn sites, without permission.
As a result of the increase, the detachment recently issued a media release urging people to think twice before engaging in that type of behaviour.
Const. Maury Tyre, media spokesperson for the Campbell River RCMP, told CHEK News that sharing explicit images and videos with a significant other, acquaintance or random stranger may seem harmless at the time it can come back to haunt a person.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of people really comprehend how devastating it is until it is too late,” he said.
Tyre said the issue of privately explicit images and videos being shared online without permission is no longer just a problem among teenagers.
“This is happening to adults as well. This is not just a teen thing,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why we want to get this message out there, to make not just teens aware, but adults aware of the consequences.”
Those consequences include possible criminal charges. Tyre said individuals charged with distribution of an intimate image without consent, face a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.
“If you’re holding intimate images of somebody that was a significant other or that you have had relations with and you share those images, whether you’re publishing it online or sending submitting it to a website, without permission, you are in a sense . . . committing the crime of distributing intimate images,” he said.
Tyre explained the detachment often finds that what ends up happening is one or both parties will send explicit images of themselves, usually in the beginning phases of a relationship or encounter. But then the relationship ends or begins to fall apart and one person will upload the explicit content without the other’s knowledge.
“I believe the ability to record and take photos of yourself in intimate acts has definitely increased and it has, for many people, also become a socially acceptable thing,” Tyre said, later adding. “The issue comes in is when you have people that may have created content for just each other to share, but one person decides to share that content without the others permission.”
Images or videos that were intended to be for private consumption can often end up on revenge porn websites, underground websites where people collect and exchange explicit images of women, general pornographic sites or other websites.
Tyre said when that happens, it can impact the victim in many different ways including depression, loss of reputation and job loss.
“There are people who have moral clauses in contracts, depending on what you do for a living. So if all of a sudden you’re on the internet performing a sexual act . . . you could lose your job,” he said.
In the event that an individual notices private photos or videos of them on the internet, they can contact the RCMP, who will investigate.
“If those images are traded without their consent, they do need to let us know,” he said.
However, Tyre said investigations into these types of crimes are time-consuming and often incredibly difficult.
“They require immense amounts of works and in a lot of cases you can’t get that kind of satisfaction or justice for the person that is being victimized,” he said.
One reason for their difficulty is because of the very nature of the internet.
“Once it is on the internet, it is there. That is the nature of the internet,” he said. “We might be successful at getting it removed from one site, but there is nothing to say that it hasn’t been traded to somebody else and that is not going to appear later and that is a very difficult thing for people to understand.”
Though difficult, Tyre said the RCMP will investigate if they are asked, explaining that police have been successful in getting images removed from certain websites in the past, even if the individual didn’t want an investigation.
“In some cases, people may not want to have it investigated but they actually want stuff taken down and police can try and help them with that,” he said. “In some cases, the websites – obviously not the revenge porn ones – can be responsive.”
At the end of the day, Tyre said the message from the detachment isn’t that sharing explicit images of yourself with another individual is necessarily wrong, just that people should be aware there are certain inherent risks that come with it.”
“People make the choices they make and it is not a judgement issue. It’s not for the police to judge,” he said. “It’s really about understanding what goes out on the internet, what we put out on the internet, it can have far-reaching effects. So this is worth talking to people about rather than seeing people victimized.”
“The biggest thing is getting the stories out there and explaining to people and giving people the opportunity and knowledge,” he added.