You are currently viewing First steps towards the criminalization of cyberflashing

Cyberflash is not a new phenomenon in the age of new technologies, but one we can now put into words.

What is cyberflashing ?

Cyberflashing is the fact that a person uses the Internet to send an image of their naked body to a person they don’t know and who hasn’t asked them to do so.

The sending can be massive and simultaneous. This act can also be part of the revenge porn phenomenon. This is the distribution of sexually explicit images of a person without their consent, a form of cyberstalking that is becoming increasingly widespread in the age of social networking and among teenagers.

Furthermore, a feature has been identified as increasingly amplifying this phenomenon : AirDrop (2011). This feature allows Apple users to send each other photos of all kinds, simply by pressing the touch-sensitive “accept” button in the window that appears in the center of the screen. With a simple click, a nude photo can appear and be saved in the recipient’s gallery. The problem lies in this ease of acceptance, which may happen because of mishandling or carelessness.

This phenomenon is part of a context in which sending nudes is becoming increasingly normalized. Unfortunately, some ill-intentioned people take pleasure in doing so for purposes of harassment or intimidation.

The situation is even more worrying when the targets of these photos are children

The inadequacy of the French legal arsenal

In French law, it has been difficult to link these actions to criminal offenses such as sexual harassment or sexual exhibition, as not all the material elements of the offense are present. Let’s take the example of sexual exhibition, this offense must be an active, visual act, accessible to the public eye. In the case of cyberflashing, the difficulty lies in identifying the perpetrator.

A new European directive

After a long period of legal limbo, we’re beginning to see the possibility of criminalizing this non-consensual sharing of intimate images. A new directive was approved by the European Parliament on April 24, 2024 and by the EU Council on May 7, 2024. This European directive calls for stricter national laws against cyberviolence, including cyberflashing. 

However, unlike a regulation which is directly applicable, this is a directive. This means that it must be transposed by EU member states within two years. They are free to apply the directive as they see fit, it is a freedom of means. We’re hoping for rapid transposition, given the numerous cases of cyberviolence reported in recent years and which will continue to multiply.

Pending stricter regulations, parents may be advised to disable the AirDrop function on their children’s smartphones, which are the most vulnerable, to avoid any risk of cyberflashing.

It is also possible to configure the function so that only our friends can send us content.

Generally speaking, it’s best to be wary of the username of the person who suddenly sends us a photo or video.

Kenza Ghezloun-Perez

Master 2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2023/2024 

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A propos de Kenza GHEZLOUN

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