Cyberflashing

Cyberflashing book coverDoes the law on cyberflashing need reform? Yes!

Quick links: (1) to my blog in The Independent on latest Law Commission proposals; (2) to my policy briefing giving info on prevalence, harms and why a new criminal law needed; and (3) to my just- published book on cyberflashing (with Kelly Johnson). 

What’s the issue? Cyberflashing – where someone sends a penis image to another without their consent – is not currently a criminal offence in England & Wales. It’s often not taken seriously, yet it’s the online version of physical flashing in the street, and it’s a growing problem. Many women experience cyberflashing as a sexual intrusion , often inducing real and paralysing fear. Urgent action is therefore needed to make clear that this conduct is harmful and serious, with criminalisation representing an important first step towards challenging these behaviours. This is the focus of my new book with Kelly Johnson : Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws.

New law reform proposals: In July 2021, the Law Commission published its proposals to introduce a new law criminalising some forms of cyberflashing. This is a very welcome first start, but further revisions needed to ensure all forms of cyberflashing are criminalised, not matter what the motivation of the perpetrator. See my comments in The Independent on next steps and how the Online Safety Bill provides a great opportunity to introduce a new law – and to get the law right first time.

For a detailed analysis of the Law Commission’s preliminary suggestions, see my evidence (with Johnson) to Law Commission consultation. We also prepared a shorter Stakeholder Briefing. 

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Public debate and calls for reform are increasing. I have been pleased to contribute to some of these discussions, including this BBC report here on the everyday harassment of women experiencing cyberflashing: Cyber-flashing: ‘I get explicit messages every day’ – BBC News

See also these important reports highlighting women’s experiences including reports from the Reuters Foundation – Gross and shocking’: Women call for new laws to stop cyber-flashing – the Independent The tip of the iceberg’: Cyber-flashing on trains ‘largely unreported’ despite huge rise in incidents and Huffington Post: Flashing And Flashing Can Be Equally Harmful.

You can watch this video from the Reuters Foundation and hear from those who have experienced cyberflashing and why we need action:

You can read more about our proposals for law reform in my short article with Kelly Johnson in the Journal of Criminal Law which is free to download and available here. We have also written a short blog outlining the main elements of a specific new criminal offence targeting cyberflashing.

Cyberflashing – an issue across the world: I was pleased to share some of our insights into cyberflashing with colleagues at Sabanici University in Turkey, and particularly their Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies. You can watch the presentation on YouTube here

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