As Many As 10 Million People May Have Been Victims Of Revenge Porn

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Despite high-profile cases of celebrity photo "hacks," most recently Maisie Williams, and a lot of conversations about "revenge porn" (remember Is Anyone Up?), we still don't have a good idea of how common the threat of releasing private photos really is. But in a new survey of the problem, researchers found that 4% of internet users in the U.S. — or about 10 million people — may have been the victims of this type of behavior. And those who don't identify as heterosexual are more likely to have been affected.

The new report, released by the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, is based on 3,002 telephone interviews with people over the age of 15. Researchers found that about 3% of those surveyed had experienced someone threatening to post nude photos or videos of them online in order to embarrass them. And another 2% of participants reported having someone actually post those things online without their permission.

Overall, the researchers expanded their findings to conclude that about 4% of internet users had experienced either the threat or actual posting of photos or videos that constitute "revenge porn." Although 4% may not sound like much, it amounts to around one in 25 people.

The researchers found that a whopping 15% of those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual had experienced either threats or actual posting of sensitive material online.

Not only is non-consensually releasing this type of material onto the internet ethically shitty, it's also increasingly becoming illegal: The U.K. recently passed a law making it a crime to distribute revenge porn. And those of us in the U.S. might also see legislation at the federal level soon. For now, 34 individual states have enacted their own legislation that can be applied to revenge porn. And considering how many lives this behavior affects, now is the time for the others to follow suit.
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