Nova Scotia Court To Test New Canadian ‘Intimate Image’ Sharing Law Targeting Revenge Porn

Last year, the Canadian federal government passed new laws intended to target the non-consensual sharing of “intimate images” which had originally been shared with consent – which, in layman’s terms, refers to explicit images shared through “sexting” and other similar means which are then passed on by the person receiving them to one or more third-parties. Specifically, the law was intended to combat the practice of “revenge porn” which is typically shared by one (usually male) member of a separated couple after the breakup out of a sense of vengeance or as part of an attempt to actively damage their ex.

Now, a Nova Scotia court is preparing to test that law. According to CBC, six teenage boys, aged 15-18, are scheduled to appear in Bridgewater youth court after explicit images of more than 20 teenage girls were found in a Dropbox account being shared by the boys. The names of the perpetrators are protected under law, but two 18-year-olds and four 15-year-olds are facing charges of both distributing intimate images without consent and possession and distribution of child pornography after a 13-month-long investigation involving both Canadian authorities and the FBI.

Dropbox has made sharing photos easier - but that's not always a good thing.

All 20 of the girls live, or have lived in, the Bridgewater area.

The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, also known as Bill C-13 or the cyberbullying act, is intended to protect youth against cyberbullying and to protect people of all ages from having their images distributed online without consent. Previously, the Canadian court system considered that once you had given the image out once, what happened with it was out of your hands, a stance still taken by most American courts.

Kevin O’Shea, executive director of the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, explained the new law. “This new law applies no matter what the age of the person. The key difference is this new law is for distributing photos or videos without this person’s consent – the consent of the person in the photo or video.”

“It makes it a new offence to do a number of things with videos or photos of a person in an intimate setting without that person’s consent – including publishing, distributing, transmitting those images.”

As CFJC reports, Bridgewater Police Chief John Collyer considers the case an important test of the new law, which allows prosecution for a much broader range of images – including the showing of breasts, which was previously not explicitly illegal under Canada’s existing child pornography laws. “From a policing perspective, we needed some legislation. Whether it’s hit the right balance or not in terms of severity, and keeping in mind we’re dealing with young people… time will tell.”

“The image was being shared, usually with a boyfriend, and that was with consent.”

“The issue becomes when it’s shared beyond that point and that’s the allegation that these images were going beyond what the young women had agreed to.”

It is important to note that, while this case was already prosecutable under existing child pornography laws, the Canadian court system sets strict limits on punitive damages – but those limits are on a per-charge basis. If convicted of both offenses, the boys could find themselves facing a much more significant punishment.

The investigation began in May 2015, when the Bridgewater Junior Senior High School principal contacted police after several students were suspended for sharing the images. Collyer said the investigation took so long because it required cooperation from electronics forensics experts from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) – who serve a similar role in Canada as the FBI – and from the FBI itself, which was called in to serve a warrant on Dropbox to obtain the contents of the account.

The RCMP serves as both a regular police unit in some areas and a SWAT/special investigations unit in other cases.
The RCMP serves as both a regular police unit in some areas and a SWAT/special investigations unit in other cases. [Photo by

“Once it goes on the internet you really don’t have any control over where it’s going to end up and that is for some people very devastating.”

“It is a conversation that we need to have with our young people.”

[Photo by Zerbor/iStock]