NSW govt to introduce ‘revenge porn’ law

Stops short of introducing a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy

The New South Wales government will not introduce a tort of privacy but will attempt to tackle so-called ‘revenge pornography’ — the non-consensual sharing of intimate images — through the introduction of a new criminal offence.

The state government yesterday released its response to a report of the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice on tackling serious invasions of privacy.

The government said that in the absence of support at a federal level and from other states, the introduction of a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy would not be effective. In its response the government cited the cross-jurisdictional issues of mobile phone and social media services.

A lack of national uniformity “would be likely to lead to inconsistency and complexity and increased costs for legitimate NSW business activities compared to their competitors in other states,” the government argued. The Australian Law Reform Commission has previously backed a new tort to deal with invasions of privacy.

“No one has the right to share explicit photos without consent, and new laws will protect people and make it clear this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable,” NSW attorney general Gabrielle Upton said in a statement.

“The use of mobile phones as recording devices has made it easier for people to share intimate images without consent on social media or websites, causing great distress for victims, and we need strong laws to protect them.”

The government will this month release a discussion paper on options for the proposed law.

Victoria and South Australia currently have laws criminalizing non-consensual sharing of intimate images. Earlier this year a federal inquiry recommended that the government consider empowering a federal agency to issue notices to service providers, such as social media sites, requiring them to remove intimate images that have been created and/or shared without consent.

The committee did not reach a conclusive view about whether the existing Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner should administer the takedown power. The office currently has some powers related to issuing notices for online services to take down material linked to cyberbullying.

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