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New Campaign to Close Loopholes in Cyberflashing Law

This week saw the launch of a new campaign by Bumble, Grazia and UN Women urging UK Government ministers to reconsider their approach towards cyberflashing and introduce a comprehensive, consent-based cyberflashing law in the Online Safety Bill.

What is the Government’s approach?

The Government’s current proposal requires proof that the perpetrator sent the genital images with either intent to cause distress, or to gain sexual gratification and being reckless as to causing distress. This means that not all cases of cyberflashing will be covered particularly where men claim they were ‘only doing it for a laugh’ or where they say they ‘thought she’d like it and didn’t intend any harm’.

To read more rebutting the Government’s justifications for a motive-based offence, read by briefing here.

What’s the alternative?

The campaign urges adoption of an amendment to the Government’s Bill that is comprehensive, and centre’s consent as the foundation for the law – if you deliberately send a genital image to someone without their consent, it’s an offence. I drafted this amendment for members of the House of Lords, drawing on my research recommending a consent-based approach to cyberflashing and all forms of intimate image abuse.

This approach emphasises that the core wrong is non-consent and provides a better basis for education and culture change. The amendment is based on

Campaign raising awareness and sparking public debate

The campaign featured across radio, TV and social media. I was quoted in The Times:

Professor Clare McGlynn, an expert in cyberflashing, said: “The proposed cyberflashing legislation is based on proving malicious intent, which is out of step with other proposed and existing sexual violence laws.

“This approach will leave a loophole in the law, ultimately making prosecutions against cyberflashing unlikely while protecting men and allowing them to claim a defence of ‘it was a joke’ or ‘I was having a laugh’.”

My comments and research were also featured in an opinion piece in The Guardian and in Mashable. I was interviewed on Times Radio and gave interviews to many commercial and local BBC radio stations together with former Love Island contestant, Amy Hart. We also both spoke to LBC Radio – you can see a clip of Amy here and with Vanessa Feltz on TalkTV, see here.

What can be done?

Sign the campaign pledge: The campaign included a simple pledge for people to sign and show their support for a consent-based approach to cyberflashing.

Further reading

  • Briefing/Rebuttals of Government Justifications for a Motive-Based Cyberflashing law is available here.

  • Briefing on Why a Consent-Based Cyberflashing Offence will be More Straightforward, Comprehensive and Effective than the Current Proposal in the Online Safety Bill is available here.

  • For more background on the harms, prevalence and current law on cyberflashing, read my policy briefing which accompanies my book with Kelly Johnson Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws.


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