Wednesday, June 12, 2024

BC proposes new law to protect those like Amanda Todd from being sextorted


New legislation that would protect people from having intimate images of themselves circulated without consent has been proposed in the BC Legislature.

Amanda Todd’s untimely death in 2012 is just one example of the harmful effects of having intimate images of someone used against them.

Todd took her own life after being ruthlessly cyberbullied and sextorted at the age of 15-years-old. 

Amanda’s mother Carol Todd, who founded the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, has long fought to have some kind of legislation in effect to protect those who are being treated the way her daughter was.

“For some young people, the embarrassment and ridicule that can come with the distribution of personal, intimate images can be all-encompassing,” said Carol. 

“I hope this legislation helps young people connect to the supports they need to take back control of their lives and from taking action against crimes, such as sexual exploitation, for such a long time.”

The Intimate Image Act will force concrete action to have intimate images and videos removed from social media platforms and the one posting them will be forced to take the photos down off their accounts. 

The impacts felt by victims who have had sensitive images and videos of them circulated without consent have long-lasting effects, according to the province. 

People such as Amanda Todd have been targeted, sextorted and forced to comply with the demands of their abuser without any hope of action or protection up until now. 

“Through the repugnant behaviours of Amanda’s offender and the cyberbullying that followed from Amanda’s peers, she became traumatized and her mental health quickly deteriorated,” said Carol.

“She was intimidated, exploited, cyber-abused and sextorted — sadly we have all come to know the end of her story.”

This issue isn’t one that solely affects women and young girls though. More young boys and men find themselves victimized by this issue than ever before.

“Young men and boys are increasingly finding themselves victims to this type of violence,” said Nick Sandor, executive director, Men’s Therapy Centre. 

“I want people to know there are supports available to help you deal with the mental health impacts and exercise your legal options if you chose to do so.”

The legislation covers intimate images, near-nude images, videos, livestreams and digitally altered images, including videos known as deep fakes.

If the Intimate Image Act is passed, a new and fast-tracked process for getting a legal decision that a photo or video was recorded or distributed without consent will be set in place.

Those who are responsible for distributing the intimate materials or threatening to do so will be forced to stop. 

The Act will also provide a clearer legal route for lawsuits to seek monetary damages for harms suffered of having an image or video distributed.

“Having your intimate images shared without your permission is a betrayal that can have devastating impacts,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. 

“Victims are often too ashamed to come forward and those who do are met with limited, complex and expensive legal options. We are building a path to justice for people to regain control of their private images and hold perpetrators to account.”

If passed, the legislation will specifically:

  • Create a new, expedited process resulting in legal decisions and orders designed specifically to stop the distribution of intimate images without consent; and a more traditional civil action for survivors to seek monetary damages for harms suffered
  • Enable people to apply for decisions and orders on behalf of someone who has died
  • Include special provisions to give minors access to the legal tools and remedies designed to stop the distribution of their images
  • Require wrongdoers, who are found to have distributed intimate images without consent, to make every reasonable effort to destroy all intimate images and remove them from the Internet, search engines and all forms of electronic communication
  • Order any internet intermediaries, such as Facebook, Instagram or other online platforms, to remove the intimate image and de-index it from their search engines
  • Apply retrospectively to the date the act receives first reading by the legislative assembly

In support of this newly proposed legislation, the Civil Rights Tribunal will be expanding its online portal which will aid victims in defining their legal issues, knowing their rights, accessing self-help resources and connecting with a community who can provide mental health supports.

Curtis Blandy

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