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What do I do if my photos are being used against me?

What do I do if my photos are being used against me?
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Contributors (1)
Published
Feb 24, 2020

If intimate photos of you are being circulated or misused, it can feel like the end of the world. But take heart. It’s not your fault. Yes, even if you originally gave them to the person sharing them—no matter what anyone else says. There are laws that say you have a right to expect that person will not share your images against your will.

There are people you can call on to have your back, including the websites where the images were shared and law enforcement officials. Depending on the situation, the person who shared your intimate images without permission could be charged with unlawful surveillance, coercion, domestic violence, or even criminal impersonation. Many countries have laws protecting our rights to control our images as well as the rest of our personal data. You can demand that internet service providers (ISPs) take down images of you that were shared against your will.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself in this situation:

Get to know the rules of the site where it was shared.

Different sites have different rules. For example, Facebook and Instagram allow nudity when it’s pictures of post-mastectomy scars or women breastfeeding, while a number of sites have explicit rules against sharing naked images of someone without their consent, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

Save evidence.

If your photos are shared, you may feel ashamed or frightened, and your gut may tell you to erase all trace of them as quickly as possible. But slow down before you do that. The most effective way to make this go away is counterintuitive: document the abuse. Without My Consent has details on what you want to preserve, and how.

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s removal guide to save and report content can walk you through how to report abuse on a number of different social media sites.

If you plan to make a legal case against the person sharing your photos, you may want to ask for the website’s help in documenting the person’s misuse of your photos. Here’s how.

Support your friends and family if they’re going through this

Some of us may be inclined to think “what did you expect?!” or “they brought this on themself” when we hear someone’s photos are being shared maliciously. But when someone we love goes through this, what they need from us is unconditional support. They need to hear “we’re going to get through this together.” For tips on how to support someone whose photos are being abused, check out Thorn’s excellent (and cute-cat-themed) Stop Sextortion website for young people and their caregivers and educators.

Pick up a copy of Keep Calm and Log On for even more security and privacy advice.

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