‘Cyberflashing’ to become a criminal offence

March 15, 2022

Research by Professor Jessica Ringrose in 2020 found that 76% of girls aged 12-18 had been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men. As a result, it has been decided that so-called cyberflashing will become a new criminal offence with perpetrators facing up to two years’ jail sentence.

The practice typically involves offenders sending an unsolicited sexual image to people via social media or dating apps, but can also be over data sharing services such as Bluetooth and Airdrop. In some instances, a preview of the photo can appear on a person’s device – meaning that even if the transfer is rejected, victims are forced into seeing the image.

It has now been confirmed that new provisions banning this behaviour will be included in the proposed Online Safety Bill.  The new offence will ensure cyberflashing is captured clearly by the criminal law – with the aim of giving the police and the Crown Prosecution Service greater ability to bring more perpetrators to justice. 

The change means that anyone who sends a photo or film of a person’s genitals, for the purpose of their own sexual gratification or to cause the victim humiliation, alarm or distress may face up to two years in prison.

Alongside the new cyberflashing offence, the Government has previously committed to creating three other new criminal offences through the Bill, tackling a wide range of harmful private and public online communication. These include 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 new cyberflashing offence will apply to England and Wales. The UK government says that it continues to engage with all the Territorial Offices and the devolved administrations to effectively manage devolution considerations.