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New world. Breach of privacy and “porn revenge”, these plagues that poison social networks

Benjamin Griveaux during the announcement of his withdrawal from the Parisian municipal campaign, February 14, 2020 (LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP)

The case that affects Benjamin Griveaux today is a form of what is called “revenge porn”. In French “pornodivulgation” or “revenge porno”, it is the act of broadcasting a sexually explicit content (photo, video, or even audio) without the authorization of the person concerned. Until now, we encountered this kind of affair in the context of amorous revenge (hence the name) after a breakup. Revenge porn has already done a lot of damage. This is a phenomenon that has been growing rapidly since the advent of social networks. The victims are often women.

Several famous personalities have paid the price (Pamela Anderson in 1995, Kim Kardashian in 2007, Rihanna in 2009 or even the French swimmer Laure Manaudou in 2007, for example) but also many anonymous young girls. We have seen little “revenge porn” in politics so far. A case took place last year in the United States: an elected Democrat in the House of Representatives, Katie Hill, resigned following the dissemination of intimate images concerning her.

What the law says ? Already, the unauthorized distribution of intimate images constitutes a breach of privacy. A first conviction took place in Metz in 2014 against a man who had published images of his naked pregnant wife on the Internet; he was sentenced to a 12-month suspended prison sentence and a 5,000 euro fine.

In some cases, there may also be a crime of data piracy. Today, many computer tools allow spy on computers or smartphones to recover personal information.

That's not all. Revenge porn as such is now recognized as a specific crime in many countries. This has been the case in France since the digital law of October 7, 2016. The Penal Code provides for up to 2 years in prison and a € 60,000 fine. In the Griveaux case, this sentence therefore potentially threatens the Russian agitator (who lives in Paris) who claims the dissemination of the images. Ditto for anyone who posts these images on social networks. There is however a problem: still it is necessary that the person can be clearly identified, however, in this case, one does not see a face on the video. However, Benjamin Griveaux's reaction could be interpreted as a recognition of authenticity.

Once the infernal machine is started, it is obviously very difficult to stop it, that is to say to stop the dissemination of these images. Social media platforms are however made aware and the law obliges them to promptly remove the content, when it is reported.

Facebook works on a deletion system automatically before publication. But, for that, it is necessary to have a reference digital fingerprint. People who want to be protected must therefore agree to send intimate pictures of themselves beforehand, which can be detrimental. The system was initiated in Australia.

In the case of Griveaux, the original images are on a website, which is even different. Action should be taken at the accommodation level to make them disappear. It is also possible to request a dereference from Google. It all takes time.

Faced with the scourge of “porn revenge”, associations strongly recommend, in particular to young people, to be careful and not to send intimate images of oneself, even within the framework of a private exchange. We know today that the Internet can turn a private matter into a public drama in an instant.

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