Online 'revenge porn' portal launched in Australia

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia has launched an online portal to report "revenge porn" after research showed women were having intimate images shared without their permission on a "mass scale".

The "world-first" initiative will offer support and advice, while working with websites and search engines to help take down offending posts.

The government's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said late Monday (Oct 16 ) a survey it conducted showed one in five women aged 18-45 had suffered image-based abuse.

It followed research by Melbourne's Monash University in May saying women were falling prey to abusive behaviour on a "mass scale", with intimate photos and video taken without their consent and uploaded on social networks.

"This is a world-first government-led initiative, empowering Australians who experience this insidious form of abuse with practical information and a range of options to help resolve their situation and relieve their distress," said Inman Grant.

Facebook and its Messenger app accounted for 53 per cent of revenge porn, followed by Snapchat at 11 per cent then Instagram at four per cent, with text messaging and MMS also used, she said.

"Australians will be able to report intimate images or videos that have been shared without their consent directly through to our portal," added Inman Grant. "We will work with social media providers, websites and search engines to help facilitate the removal of the image-based abuse."

The Monash University research - the most comprehensive on the subject ever in Australia, questioning 4,200 people - found that men and women were equally likely to be targeted.

About a third of those who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual had fallen victim.

The researchers said legislation needed to be strengthened, adding "revenge porn" had emerged at such a rapid pace that laws were "struggling to catch up".

Inman Grant said the abuse had severe impacts on victims' mental health and physical wellbeing, but few took action about it, with many saying they did not know what to do. "Our portal now gives victims a place to seek assistance," she said.

"Understanding that Australians reporting to us are likely to be in distress, the portal provides clear and concise information about the steps victims can take to reduce the impact of the abuse, in an easy and intuitive way."

At present, only the states of Victoria and South Australia have specific laws that criminalise the distribution of intimate or invasive images without consent.