B.C. intimate images act details outlined to tech companies

B.C. is working to make the sharing of intimate photos and video without consent harder, by cracking down on social media companies and making reporting the crime easier for survivors. Sarah Chew reports.

In a move aimed at cracking down on the sharing of intimate images without consent, the B.C. government is informing major porn and social media companies about the province’s legal changes on the matter.

On Thursday, B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma announced the government sent a letter to companies like PornHub, OnlyFans, Grindr, Tinder, Meta, and Twitter with details of the Intimate Images Protection Act so they know their responsibilities under provincial law.

“If the companies don’t comply, we have all the tools of our court system in order to force compliance. That means injunctions, that means court actions and court enforcement orders,” she said.

The Intimate Images Protection Act, which is expected to come into effect in the coming months, is meant to “create a new, fast-track process for getting a legal decision that an intimate image was recorded or distributed without consent and ordering people to stop distributing or threatening to distribute intimate images.”

Read More: B.C.’s intimate images protection act targets online sextortion

Sharma points out part of the act includes holding the companies that run the platforms on which images are shared to account, saying “it limits liabilities for intermediaries only if they’ve taken reasonable steps to take down that material.”

“I expect these technology companies to join me in condemning these terrible acts, and I expect them to share our goal of protecting people over profits. The letter outlines how the government is making it easier for people to get their images offline and it explains how technology companies will be impacted,” Sharma said.

Ultimately, Sharma says, the law is about protecting people.

“This part of it is about making sure that we all know in today’s day and age that things spread pretty quickly, so we need to work with the internet intermediaries and all social media platforms for them to do their part because our process can also issue orders against them to take action when it’s spreading on their website,” she said.

‘The internet does not have any boundaries’

News of the letter sent to tech companies is welcome for those helping educate kids about online exploitation.

“We can’t see that change until we hold big tech companies accountable,” said Tiana Sharifi, CEO of the Exploitation Education Institute in Vancouver.

“This is just another example of what we’re communicating not only to the public and to youth as well that this is a serious crime that has big impacts on another person but also to the big tech companies, that we’re not going to stand by as a society and let this kind of violence take place without holding them accountable.”

Sharifi says she’s hopeful the act, along with the letter, will help cut down on the number of people who fall victim to online sex crimes.

“Just having a civil response where you don’t have to wait such a long time period before going into the criminal end of things, you don’t have to have this big burden of proof,” she told CityNews.

“We’re going to, I strongly believe, see impact and we’re going to see some prevention take place here.”

Having helped educate kids of the dangers of sharing intimate images online, Sharifi is hopeful that the government action being taken further solidifies their message.

“I think we’re understanding that the internet does not have any boundaries,” she explained. “A virtual word is still a word. A virtual action is still an action. Virtual violence is still violence. That harm is still there.”

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