- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2020

New York’s attorney general warned Wednesday of a surge in “revenge porn” during the coronavirus pandemic, with people in lockdown turning to online ways to be intimate — and then having their activities recorded and potentially posted without their consent.

Letitia James, the attorney general, said officials have seen an increase in the number of New Yorkers turning to the internet for sex as they try to follow social distancing guidelines.

She issued a checklist for online sex-seekers to be wary of, suggesting they make sure not to have anything in their background that could identify their home or company, and to refrain from including an email address in any images they do take of themselves.

And she suggested hiding faces or other identifying features such as tattoos from images or videos.

“Some users can keep their face off-screen in such images, while others can utilize a blurring or cropping feature,” the attorney general’s office advised.



The office also suggested using dating apps or websites that include “safety features” such as notifications when someone has snapped a screenshot of an image, or an “unsend” function to pull back images.

“Revenge porn is a vicious form of humiliation and control that disproportionately affects women, and we will continue to fight this cruel form of degradation in New York state,” Ms. James said.

Revenge porn often involves someone using collected images to try to extort other things from the victim, including more images or, in some cases, money, under threat of posting the images or sending them to family or friends.

Early during the pandemic, pornography purveyors reported that their online viewership was soaring as people were trapped at home and searching for entertainment outlets.

One prominent website even gave free access to contents for residents of some countries hard hit during the early days of the pandemic, in exchange for a pledge that the users would quarantine themselves from in-person contacts.

Analysts say the pandemic has also upended dating and pushed some intimacy activities online. According to social media forums, everything from one-on-one photo sharing to online sex parties have become outlets.

A paper published over the summer in the Archives of Sexual Behavior warned of downsides, such as online harassment, stalking, dating scams and revenge porn.

That paper also predicted that pornography addictions might rise.

Ms. James in New York said video-chat services are reporting high use, which creates more opportunities for revenge-porn mischief.

Women are the overwhelming victims, she said.

New York last year enacted a law criminalizing revenge porn and giving victims an avenue to sue or civil damages.

Domestic-violence survivor advocates cheered Ms. James’s warning, saying it was timely given the rush to online avenues for intimacy.

Stella K. Hirsch, a lawyer with Safe Horizon, a New York organization, said there’s been an “exponential rise” in revenge porn and online harassment, which has prompted an increase in demand for her group’s services.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide