REVENGE PORN AND THE NIGERIAN LAW

REVENGE PORN AND THE NIGERIAN LAW

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By Precious Omoregie


What is revenge porn?

Revenge Porn refers to the sharing of explicit or sexual, images or videos, without the consent of the person in the image. This is an issue among people of all ages from children as young as 11 to much older adults. However, the most commonly reported incidents have come from those who are in their teens to adults in their mid-twenties. This is often due to a lack of available information and support regarding the dangers and consequences of sharing explicit images. It has been defined by the American government as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.” Often there will be additional personal information included with the images or videos that are published. This combination can leave a person feeling vulnerable and could possibly put them in danger. At minimum, it is psychologically damaging to the victim. Revenge porn, known more formally as revenge pornography (and colloquially as ‘extortion’) is the distribution of sexual images for another without their consent. It is immaterial if the victim took the pictures and sent it or it was taken without their consent, what is material is such images are shared without the victims consent.

The recurring case is jilted lover who is full of anger willing to seek revenge, cause annoyance or a person who gets in contact with such Pictures with the intention to extort. Whichever is the case the victim of such revenge suffer injury to character, shame and unwanted exposure.  This can be extremely damaging for the victim. Such intimate and private images are, in most circumstances, intended to be seen by the recipient only. When such an image is shared with others and even the public, that person is then not in control of who sees this picture of themselves.  This is a form of cyberbullying and     also mental abuse that can drive victims to commit suicide. Originally, they might have trusted that partner enough to share such personal content with them and be reassured that the recipient would not act so maliciously. A violation of trust such as this can leave a scar that then has the potential to negatively impact the victim psychologically and jeopardize future relationships.

What does the Law say?

A lot of people would say the best approach to issues like this is to avoid taking pictures that can be used against them; however what happens to persons who were taken pictures of or recorded without their consent?

In the United States of America, regardless of the fact that some states have passed laws prohibiting either the production or distribution of nonconsensual pornography, there appears to be no federal law regarding this content. The Communications Decency Act, a federal law passed in 1996 regulating pornography on the internet, protects websites and service providers from liability for content posted by users that they are not co-creators of. According to Section 230 of the Act, operators of internet services and websites are not considered publishers of content their users post. As such, websites and service providers have no legal obligation to remove nonconsensual pornography unless it otherwise violates copyright or federal criminal laws. In the USA, forty (40) states have passed laws pertaining to revenge porn; this shows the rampant nature of situation.

About one in twenty-five Americans are either threatened with or victims of nonconsensual image sharing, or “revenge porn” as it’s more commonly known, that equates to roughly ten (10) million Americans. Accordingly, revenge porn has been criminalized under amended California Penal Code Section 647 to include PC 647(j) (4) only since 2013, and it wasn’t until 2014 that anyone was charged under the law. This law provides that it is illegal to post explicit images of someone online without their consent. If the images contain multiple people, it does not matter if you have the consent of one of the parties in the image. As long as one person who can be identified in the image did not give consent, you could be charged under the revenge porn law.

In Europe  there is a  “right to be forgotten” law potentially resulting in a European Union–wide revenge porn prohibition Individuals have the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. This applies where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive for the purposes of the data processing.

In Israel, revenge porn is treated as a sex crime with grave sanctions.

In Africa, there are no express laws regulating revenge porn. Although rampant, the society would rather castigate the victim than help get the culprit to justice.

In Uganda, a models nude pictures circulated the internet after her ex lover uploaded them when she refused to pay him. She was charged under Uganda’s Anti-Pornography Act instead of following up on the distribution of such pictures.

Revenge porn and the Nigerian perspective

In Nigeria, we have had a lot of revenge porn cases on the internet especially these past years of internet uproar. The Criminal Code Act and the Cyber-crimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act 2015 are the Nigerian enactments covering the field on the issue of revenge porn.

A strict review of the criminal code act will show that there are some traits of revenge porn. However if it is done outside the internet, then the criminal code act may apply otherwise this section cannot apply to it.  Section 170 of the criminal code act provides;

Any person who knowingly sends, or attempts to send, by post anything which;

(a)encloses anything, whether living or inanimate, of such a nature as to be likely to injure any other thing in the course of conveyance, or to injure any person; or

(b) encloses an indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, lithograph, engraving, book, card, or article, or which has on it, or in it, or on its cover, any indecent, obscene, or grossly offensive words, marks, or designs; is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year.

From the above provision it is clear that this applies to anything sent by post. However, this section, particularly paragraph (b) relates mostly to revenge porn although in adopting the literal rule reading of this, it applies only to messages by posts. Some persons may argue that this applies to revenge porn while others may not it is however left out to the discretion of the court to decide. Arguably, it can be said that this enactment was made in an age where social media and the internet space were not prominent.

With the enactment of the Cybercrimes Act of Nigeria 2015, the act touched a great portion of grey areas; the issue of revenge porn was entirely covered. Section 24 of the Act provides;

(a) Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or

(b) he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent: commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7, 000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

With this provision, particularly paragraph (a), it is clear that reference therein is being made to revenge porn. Although, it may be argued that it doesn’t state that such messages are being sent to the internet, thereby leaving a little lacuna suggesting that the section only applies to messages sent using computer, but a message is defined as a verbal, written, or recorded communication sent to or left for a recipient who cannot be contacted directly. Therefore a message does not necessarily need to be sent directly to one person, suffice to say the mere upload of a picture on a social media platform is a message to the victim with intention to compliment or ridicule the victim(with or without consent). The provisions under the Act went further to encompass every other means of distribution as “other matter by means of computer systems or network”.

Therefore, this section covers leaks on the internet. The distribution of the said explicit content without the consent of the victim is what makes up revenge porn. Again, some may argue that the provision makes no express statement if consent is necessary for this section to apply, and may further state that paragraph (b) of said section provides that “he knows to be false”, makes it inapplicable.

A cursory look at the provision would reveal that it need not be expressly written that consent was not obtained, for this to be provided “for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent” then it is clear consent was not given for such to be distributed.

From the foregoing the Nigerian legislation prohibits sharing of such contents without the consent of the other person captured on it, the legislations that pertain close to the matter of revenge porn have covered the area fully. It can be confidently argued that under Section 24 of CYBERCRIMES (prohibition, Prevention Act 2015) , revenge porn is a punishable offence.

In my view, The Criminal Code Act should be reviewed to reflect the fact in issue wherein, revenge porn is added as an offence under our Nigerian law.

The problems facing victims of revenge porn is the inability to report such cases like this to the relevant authorities due to the fear of castigation and prolonged public ridicule. Once faced with issues like this, and the pictures or files are being distributed online, the police should be notified or a lawyer’s advice should be sought on the next line of action.

With the prominence of social media usage in this age and time, a lot of revenge porn cases are being reported, however a few persons have the knowledge what steps to take towards stopping such menace.

The world is evolving daily therefore laws should be made to dance to the tone of this situation.  Lawmakers should review these provisions to fit revenge porn, so that such acts will not go unpunished.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for this precious! I never knew what revenge porn meant, but I decided to check it out, and I’m glad I did. I just like to know a little of everything.

  2. This is an exceptional piece that you have written, and I very pleased the Nigerian Government provides protection against revenge porn, however it may be argued that it is still very difficult to prosecute just like rape, most victims are usually ashamed to come forward, nevertheless I am very proud that you took on this mantle to write about this, which I’m sure is a first kind in Nigeria, and thank you for adding the little piece we talked, ultimately creating public awareness is critical to avoiding this humiliating crime from being widespread in Nigeria and hopefully the rest of Africa, thank for sharing

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