New survey by CyberGhost VPN unveils the urgent need for

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BUCHAREST, ROMANIA, Aug. 16, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — New data from CyberGhost VPN, a leading online privacy and security provider, exposes a significant knowledge gap on revenge porn and what to do should you fall victim to this distressing and rapidly increasing crime. CyberGhost VPN is calling for increased awareness and education on revenge porn, in order to help prevent such incidents occurring in the first place and to empower victims to seek support.

Respondents unaware of how to seek help

The CyberGhost survey, carried out among a sample of internet users over 18 years old, focused on understanding attitudes towards and actions taken around revenge porn. Revenge porn is the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the individual depicted.

Over 20% of respondents said they knew someone who had been a victim of revenge porn, while over 8% had been a victim themselves. Strikingly, some respondents highlighted that they encountered revenge porn during their time at school, not just from individuals they had been in a romantic relationship with, but also as a deliberate strategy employed by fellow students for the purposes of bullying or causing embarrassment. In other cases the perpetrator did not actually send the explicit images, but used the threat of doing so as a method of coercion and control.

Victims who reported their experience to law enforcement received mixed responses. While some reported that they had been able to successfully bring charges against their harasser, others noted delays to proceedings and a lack of information or support.

Globally, 62% of respondents replied that they did not know what to do if they were to become a victim of revenge porn. In the US, there was an even greater lack of awareness regarding what action to take should this happen to them, with 72% of respondents saying they wouldn’t know what to do.

A stronger legal stance in the US

Concerningly, 46.2% of respondents in the US were not aware that revenge porn is illegal despite the fact that nearly all 50 states have laws that outlaw nonconsensual pornography, or revenge porn. Most states make it a criminal offense to disseminate intimate images of someone if the defendant acted with intent to harm. In New York City, a law passed in 2017 goes even further, making it a crime to even threaten to send revenge porn. Victims can also go to family court and get a civil restraining order directing offenders to destroy the victims’ intimate images in their possession, or face arrest if they continue to distribute them.

There are also plans to make revenge porn a federal crime through the proposed Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution (SHIELD) Act, which would criminalize the non-consensual distribution of nude or sexually explicit images, including threatening to do so. Under the legislation, reintroduced in 2023 by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn, offenders could be imprisoned for up to five years.

The need for social change

Whilst ensuring adequate legal provision for prosecuting these crimes is important, the findings of the CyberGhost VPN survey also demonstrate a critical need for better education and support for victims of revenge porn.

A spokesperson for CyberGhost VPN said: “The lack of awareness regarding the illegality of revenge porn and of how to seek justice if you are a victim is deeply concerning.

“Legal developments in this area have progressed, helping to provide victims with clearer avenues by which to seek justice, yet more still needs to be done socially to combat this issue. Educational initiatives emphasizing the importance of consent, digital privacy, and the legal ramifications of engaging in revenge porn can play a crucial role in helping to prevent it in the first place.

“Similarly, equipping people with the knowledge of how to better protect themselves online, including how to safeguard their personal information, use secure platforms, and navigate privacy settings effectively, is vital in helping to foster a safer digital environment for all.”

Rise in revenge porn drives increased awareness of digital privacy

Despite a lack of awareness about what to do should you become a victim of revenge porn, the survey results did demonstrate that people had increased the amount of attention they paid to their online privacy as a result of the rise in revenge porn and similar malicious activities. Over 56% of respondents said their increased awareness of this type of crime had made them more cautious about their digital privacy and what they were willing to share online.

In particular, nearly 47% said that they took care not to share account logins with others, including for social media, cloud storage and other accounts and 46% said that they were consciously restricting how much they shared online, including their location, age and details about their personal life. Other measures people were using to look after their privacy online included using strong, unique passwords which they updated regularly, using encrypted messaging apps, making sure to logout of social media accounts and apps, and using privacy software including VPNs and ad-blockers.

Support for victims

The following steps are recommended for those who become a victim of revenge porn:

  • Gather evidence: Take screenshots of all websites or platforms where your private content is being shared, including original or manipulated images, your requests for removal, and any communication with the person responsible. This evidence will be useful for future legal action.
  • Request content removal: Contact the hosting site directly to request the quickest possible removal of your content. While social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are not legally responsible for user-generated content, they typically have policies against non-consensual porn. Report your content on these platforms to have it blocked, and also ask for the removal of the images from search engine results such as Google and Bing.
  • Know your legal rights: Research the laws in your jurisdiction regarding revenge porn, defamation, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy. For example, in the United States, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative provides an overview of revenge porn laws by state, including information on sextortion and  https://www.cyberghostvpn.com/en_US/privacyhub/sexting-revenge-porn/deepfakes.
  • Involve law enforcement: With your evidence and legal knowledge, contact local law enforcement or consult with a lawyer to seek legal assistance in removing or deleting the content and holding the perpetrator accountable.
  • Consider hiring a lawyer: An experienced attorney can help navigate the legal process, protecting your rights and increasing the likelihood of achieving a satisfactory outcome. They can assist with filing necessary reports, obtaining court orders to remove the illicit content, and potentially pursuing criminal charges or civil lawsuits against the person responsible.
  • Seek emotional support: Dealing with non-consensual porn can be traumatic, so it’s important to reach out for emotional support if needed. Contact crisis helplines or therapists who specialize in sexual trauma for assistance. In the United States, the CCRI’s 24-hour crisis hotline is available, and the organization also provides a directory of country-specific resources for victims outside the US. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also provides specific advice on revenge porn.

CyberGhost VPN has long been recognized as a champion of internet privacy and their Privacy Hub contains useful educational resources on many aspects of privacy and cybersecurity. Anyone who has concerns about revenge porn or other online harassment can visit the company’s website: https://www.cyberghostvpn.com/en_US/privacyhub/sexting-revenge-porn/ for further advice and assistance.

Notes to Editor
Please contact Charlotte Scott at CyberGhost VPN at charlotte.scott@cyberghost.com.

About CyberGhost VPN
Founded in 2011, CyberGhost VPN is dedicated to building a future where privacy online is a basic human right. The company’s VPN platform is one of the most reliable in the world, delivering a secure and private online experience to millions of people globally. Just one subscription covers and protects up to 7 devices simultaneously, and their superior network of 10Gbps servers provides customers with excellent speeds and unlimited bandwidth. With an impressive server fleet covering more than 90 countries and over 115 different locations, CyberGhost is a popular choice for those looking for a reliable VPN provider for streaming and gaming.

CyberGhost has been part of Kape Technologies since 2017. To learn more about CyberGhost, visit www.cyberghostvpn.com.

About the survey
CyberGhost’s survey was carried out using the survey platform Survey Monkey in June 2023 using a global sample of 1055 people in English, French, German and Spanish. The sample size included respondents aged 18 to 65. 58% of respondents identified as female, 40% male and less than 1% non-binary and transgender. The survey asked questions relating to people’s attitudes and knowledge of both sexting and revenge porn.


        



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