I’m a bit of a fan of the Guardian long reads section of their website. However, as they are so lengthy in nature, I don’t always have the time to read every single one. This week I discovered that they do a podcast form of their long reads, which means I can listen to them on my commutes to work and uni without having to stare at my phone screen! How very impatient and ‘millenial’ of me. A story that really grabbed me was one concerning a young girl who posted regularly to youtube, who was caught in the midst of a revenge porn scandal. The link to the text version of the story can be found here.
The young girl in question – Chrissy Chambers, had been posting videos to Youtube with her girlfriend for a number of years. Before meeting her girlfriend, Chambers had previously had a relationship with a man, who, upon hearing news of her new relationship, posted videos of himself having sex with Chambers to a number of free porn websites. At first Chambers was oblivious to them, but a commenter on her youtube videos soon started to make her other followers aware of these videos. Chambers had no memory of the videos being recorded, her ex had got her drunk to the point of unconciousness and then slept with her and recorded videos of her without her consent.
I didn’t originally come across this story with the expectation that this would be a business based human rights vilation. ‘Revenge porn’ is a particularly modern phenomenon, one that wouldn’t have been relevent when the Universal declaration was drawn up. However, I definitely think there is a case for this incident violating article 3, particularly the ‘liberty and security of a person.’ After the videos were posted, Chambers recieved death threats which can cause a person to feel extremely unsafe, just from existing. Also, there’s the whole issue with her consent to have sex in the first place, let alone consent to the filming of it.
The section of the story that really grabbed my attention was the part that talked about Chamber’s legal proceedings taken out against her ex boyfriend:
‘A month after finding the videos, Chambers reported her ex to the Atlanta police and travelled to Georgia to make a statement. The police eventually told her that although the videos were shot in the US, they were uploaded in England, so it wasn’t their business to investigate. Chambers and Kam then tried to get help from the police in the UK, who kept referring them back to Atlanta.’
Chambers’ ex boyfriend was British, and seeing as he uploaded the videos there she was essentially told that it wasn’t an issue of concern of her home state, but UK police claimed the opposite.
I also found the fact that even though the UK created a law against revenge porn in 2015, this did not apply to Chambers’ case as the videos were uploaded in 2015. I am noticing more and more that laws are rarely retrospective, and I understand the reasonings behind that. But in cases such as this, it is incredibly frustrating.
The next section of the article I found very interesting is as follows:
‘When it came to her own case, Chambers struggled to make any progress. The websites that host and profit from revenge porn proved impossible to pin down: RedTube is based in Houston, Texas, with servers in San Francisco and New Orleans; it currently belongs to MindGeek, who bought the site from Bright Imperial Ltd in July 2013, long after her ex posted the videos. Trying to establish who was legally liable for what website in which jurisdiction at the time the videos were uploaded would require unlimited legal resources, which Chambers didn’t have. Once the CPS officially confirmed they wouldn’t be pressing criminal charges against her ex, her only hope of getting any redress was to sue him for damages in England.’
Law is so incredibly complex, especially when attempting to pin down who is responsible for online based crimes. The internet itself is full of governance gaps, and even more complex ones as the internet itself is seperate from our physical governances. We live in an extremely interesting and turbulant time in terms of online law, I thought trying to sort out international law was complicated enough, adding in the internet just adds whole new layers of complexity.