BC law would empower victims of revenge porn and sextortion

The B.C. law would give victims way to get compensation and the removal of intimate images posted without consent

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The B.C. government has announced new legislation against the posting of intimate images without a person’s consent, such as in cases of sextortion.

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“For those who have experienced this violation, you do not need to suffer in silence. Putting your trust in someone is not a crime and your privacy must be protected,” Attorney General Niki Sharma said after introducing the Intimate Images Protection Act in the legislature on Monday.

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She said the law will provide expedited options for victims to get orders that images taken down and destroyed. It will allow victims to claim compensation from people who posted the photos without permission. And B.C.’s civil resolution tribunal will expand its online portal to give people information on their rights and self-help tools to begin remedial action, and connect them to community and mental-health supports.

Publishing intimate images without consent is an offence under Canada’s Criminal Code, but this new provincial legislation provides additional options for victims. Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island already have similar provincial legislation that complements the federal criminal law.

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Carol Todd, whose 15-year-old daughter Amanda Todd died by suicide in 2012 after being harassed and sexually extorted for years, appeared with Sharma after the bill was introduced.

“Sextortion is happening to people of all ages. We talk about it for children and youth because they are even less developmentally able to handle it, but this is happening in huge numbers to young adults, too,” said Todd.

She said there are no global boundaries, noting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. received 18,000 reports of sextortion in 2021 and that Cybertip.ca, a tip line operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, receives 76 reports a week. A Canadian hotline reported a 58 per cent increase in calls from 2020 to 2021.

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Mounties in Metro Vancouver have been warning in recent months there has been an increase in sextortion with police reporting a large number of reports of money-motivated extortion targeting young girls and boys. In January, the Coquitlam RCMP issued a statement that followed similar warnings from police departments in other provinces such as Alberta and Ontario.

Last week, reports surfaced that Surrey RCMP is investigating whether sextortion may have played a role in the suicide of 14-year-old Robin Janjua, a young hockey player from Surrey.

Sextortion refers to threats based on a sexual image of a victim, or an image that’s been altered to make it appear sexual, according to Stephen Sauer, the director of Cybertip.ca.

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There is also a “double-silencing effect” among victims, who often don’t tell anyone about the extortion because they’ve been duped into providing sexual images and are afraid of getting into trouble. The effect is that victims are pulled “deeper and deeper” into extortion, he has said, as criminals continue to harass them and threaten to make personal images public to try to extract more money.

“The message has to be that if something has been happening, to not send additional photos, no money and that to know that once it gets going, it can be a real roller coaster ride,” said Todd.

Police warned that a suspect often begins a “flirtatious” online relationship and persuades the victim to send nude photos or videos, then later threatens to distribute the images unless the youth sends some kind of payment.

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Sauer said in January the majority of victims who contact Cybertip.ca for support are boys and young men between the ages of 15 and 25, with most incidents occurring over the social media platforms Instagram and Snapchat.

He added some victims have reported that “a picture was taken and edited so it appears that they are engaged in a sexual act or they’re offending against other kids,” adding that kind of extortion typically targets older teens or young adults.

jlee-young@postmedia.com

With a file from The Canadian Press

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