Cyberflashing – sending an unsolicited sexual image – will become a criminal offence (Picture: Getty)
Cyberflashing will become a criminal offence, with those found guilty facing up to two years in prison.
It is defined as sending an unsolicited sexual image to a victim through social media, dating apps or using data sharing services like Bluetooth and Airdrop.
The new policy will mean cyberflashing carries the same maximum sentence as indecent exposure.
A total of 76% of girls aged 12-18 have been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men, research by professor of sociology Jessica Ringrose in 2020 found.
Meanwhile, YouGov research from 2018 claims nearly half of young women aged 18-34 have been sent unsolicited sexual images.
A law banning the practice forms part of the Government’s Online Safety Bill, amid wide-ranging reforms designed to keep people safe on the internet.
If someone’s AirDrop settings are set to ‘everyone’, it means someone outside of their contacts list can anonymously request to send them a file – and the sender’s identity can remain anonymous.
A preview of a sexual photo can sometimes appear on a device – meaning victims are forced into seeing it, even if the transfer is rejected.
The bill will put more legal responsibility on social media platforms, search engines and other websites to tackle a range of illegal and harmful content on their services.
A total of 76% of girls aged 12-18 have been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men, research in 2020 found (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
This includes sending abusive emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages, as well as ‘pile-on’ harassment.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said protecting women and girls is his top priority.
‘It is why we’re keeping sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer, giving domestic abuse victims more time to report assaults and boosting funding for support services to £185m per year’, he said.
‘Making cyber flashing a specific crime is the latest step – sending a clear message to perpetrators that they will face jail time.’
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries added: ‘Tech has the power to bring people together and make our lives better, but it can also enable heinous behaviour from those who wish to abuse, harm and harass.
‘The forthcoming Online Safety Bill will force tech companies to stop their platforms being used to commit vile acts of cyber flashing. We are bringing the full weight on individuals who perpetrate this awful behaviour.’
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