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26/09/2021

Hotline launched to help remove intimate content shared illegally online

Hotline launched

Hotline launched to help remove intimate content shared illegally online

Victims who have had intimate images shared without consent will now be able to report the offence to Hotline, a reporting mechanism which will get images and video removed from the internet. 

The Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Justice, Hildegarde Naughton TD, announced today (Thursday) that as part of the government’s plan to tackle the sharing of intimate images without consent, victims can now report the sharing of illegal content online to Hotline.ie/report.

Anyone who has had an intimate image shared without their consent online can contact hotline.ie/report. Hotline.ie is the national centre combatting illegal content online. It handles reports of child sexual abuse material, activities relating to the sexual exploitation of children, racism and xenophobia, and is broadening its scope to provide a service for reporting intimate images shared without consent.

If an intimate image or video is shared without your consent online, Hotline.ie can provide help with reporting and removing the content. It will also liaise with An Garda Síochána on some intimate image abuse cases if the person wishes. There is also the option of reporting intimate image abuse to An Garda Síochána directly.

The reporting mechanism is one aspect of a new Department of Justice awareness campaign to highlight that sharing or threatening to share intimate images of another person without their consent is a form of abuse, and there are now laws in place to stop it with penalties of up to seven years in prison. 

Launching the campaign, Minister Naughton said: “Sharing an intimate image of someone without their consent is abhorrent, and can have long-lasting and harmful emotional and mental health effects.

“Sharing or threatening to share intimate images is a form of abuse, and there are no excuses for it. Motivations don’t matter.

“If you share an intimate image without consent, you share in the abuse and there is legislation in place with appropriate punitive measures that will challenge the actions of these abusers.”

Coco’s Law, otherwise known as the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act, which was enacted on 10 February 2021, created new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Bringing Coco’s law into operation and launching an awareness campaign was a key action contained in Justice Plan 2021, which was launched by Minister McEntee earlier this year.

Independent research commissioned by the Department of Justice found that one adult in 20 claims to have had an intimate image of themselves shared to an online or social media site without consent. This rises to one in 10 among 18-24 and 25-37 year olds.

Someone who has suffered the devastating impact of intimate content being shared without consent is Alexandra Ryan, Founder and CEO of Goss Media. Five years ago, a man Alexandra was in an intimate relationship with secretly recorded a video of them together. The video was later shared by someone else without her consent.

Ms Ryan is telling her story as part of the awareness campaign to help encourage other victims to report this crime. Speaking ahead of the launch, Ms Ryan said,

“When I found out that someone I trusted had taken an intimate video of me without my knowledge or consent, I felt utterly helpless and alone. The footage was then taken by another woman and shared, again without my consent. At that time, there was no law against filming or sharing intimate footage without consent. I felt broken, judged and ashamed. 

"It took me five years to tell my story and I can honestly say that this horrific exploitation has caused endless emotional pain and suffering that I still battle to this very day. I think it’s important now more than ever to give a voice to victims who have been through something similar, or in some cases, a lot worse.

“I think this new legislation will be a lifeline for victims of this crime. I have been following the creation of this legislation for such a long time and I think it’s so important that people – victims and abusers – now understand that sending or sharing an intimate image of someone without their consent has serious consequences. I commend Hildegarde Naughton TD and the Department of Justice for their efforts in bringing this legislation forward and I thank them for their work in helping victims across Ireland report this crime by being able to contact hotline.ie and the Gardaí.” 

The awareness campaign also includes a number of new videos and social media assets, as well as a 30-second advertisement developed by creative agency TBWA, which will be running on video on demand, Youtube, and other social media platforms.

The independent research found that while only a small cohort claim to have shared an intimate image without consent, the most common motivations people had were: for fun; they didn’t think it was a big deal; or to cause harm or distress to the person in the image. The new advert looks at these motivations while also seeking to challenge the narrative that places some or all of the blame on the victim. 

Minister Naughton added: “Coco's Law represents a big step forward in tackling harassment and harmful communications and this campaign is about raising awareness of various aspects of this legislation.

“Abusers can often use the threat of sharing intimate images as an element of coercive control in relationships. The message must and will be heard that sharing or threatening to share intimate images it will not be tolerated under any circumstances both by the law and by wider society.” 

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