Cyberflashing is officially set to become a criminal offence in England and Wales, the government have confirmed. The new Online Safety Bill means that sending unsolicited sexual images to people will carry a maximum prison sentence of two years. It comes after eight months of campaigning by Grazia alongside MP Maria Miller, actor Emily Atack and a whole host of incredible supporters online.
Confirming the long-awaited news today, ministers stated that the choice to include cyberflashing in the Online Safety Bill means that the police and Crown Prosecution Service will have a better ability to bring perpetrators to justice. Research by Professor Jessica Ringrose at UCL Institute of Education found that 76 per cent of girls aged 12-18 have been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men.
‘It is unacceptable that women and girls travelling on public transport, or just going about their day-to-day lives, are being subjected to this despicable practice,’ Justice Minister Victoria Atkins said in response to today's announcement. ‘Cyberflashing can cause deep distress to victims and our changes ensure police and prosecutors have the clarity they need to tackle it and keep people safe.’
'Cyberflashing can cause deep distress to victims and our changes ensure police and prosecutors have the clarity they need to tackle it and keep people safe.'
Grazia editor Hattie Brett said: ‘After months of campaigning, I am delighted to see that the bravery of women who helped make cyberflashing a crime has finally paid off. From Emily Atack sharing her own experiences with us, to Bumble's Whitney Wolfe-Herd explaining how tech can create safer spaces for women - and MPs Maria Miller, Jess Phillips and Fay Devon championing this cause at every turn - it’s been a long fight to ensure women are no longer subject to this disturbing behaviour which, now, will be treated for what it is: a crime. Thank you to all of the incredible readers who supported this campaign – at such a bleak time, this win for women gives us hope that when we band together, things can really change.’
Alongside cyberflashing being made a criminal offence, the Government has also previously committed to creating three other new criminal offences through the Online Safety Bill including sending abusive emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages, as well as ‘pile-on’ harassment where many people target abuse at an individual such as in website comment sections.
The Online Safety Bill will also put more legal responsibility on social media platforms, search engines and other websites or apps which host user-generated content to tackle a range of illegal and harmful content on their services
We at Grazia would like to thank Maria Miller, as well as MPs Jess Phillips and Fay Jones for their support of Grazia's campaign to make cyberflashing a crime. With the help of these MPs, Emily Atack and Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd - who shared her first-hand experience of cyberflashing here - real justice can be achieved.
We would also like to thank all of the incredible women who shared their stories with us, the writers who opened up and the readers who supported our campaign knowing how close it hit to home. It’s because of women’s bravery and refusal to settle for an unfair system that this change in the law could even happen.
Now, it’s time to celebrate – finally, a win for women!