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What to do when non-sexual images have been shared online

The Helpline has recently seen a rise in cases of non-intimate content shared to adult websites and forums where users have taken ‘normal’ images from social media profiles or elsewhere. To tackle this issue, we’ve turned to our trusty blog to explain what steps can be taken when non-intimate images are shared to adult sites online.


*** Disclaimer ***
The following advice is aimed towards adults. If you are under the age of 18 and are struggling with a situation of online abuse, please find our advice here.


What counts as a private sexual image?

The Revenge Porn Helpline can support all adult victims of intimate image abuse in the UK, but we can only help to report private sexual content which has been shared without consent. What does private sexual mean and what would this include?

In April 2015, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act made it, 'an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film, and with the intention of causing that individual distress.'

We work within the legal definition of a private sexual image but this is very wordy and still might leave you with a question mark, so let’s break it down:

A private sexual image woulddisplay exposed genitals or pubic area, so fully naked or naked on the top (for females) or bottom.

This would not include:

  • Bikini pics or topless sunbathing, as this would be considered ordinarily seen in public.
  • Underwear pics if genitals are not showing.
  • ‘Deepfakes’ or images that are edited to look nude are not considered sexual.

So, if the image does not meet these criteria and doesn’t break the law, what can you do?

If the image would not be classed as ‘private sexual’ but you still want it to be removed, there’s a few things you can do to try and report this:

Report harassment

Depending on the situation and other instances of harassment that could be happening, such as receiving threatening messages or malicious communication, you could report what has happened to the police on the grounds of harassment. You can find more advice and support about online stalking and harassment from the National Stalking Helpline.

Report the image to adult sites

You could try to report the image to the website and request its removal. You can find our advice for DIY reporting here, most websites will have a contact form that you can use.

If you own the copyright of the image (for instance, you took the image yourself), you can submit a DMCA form to request for the image to be removed. If the website does not respond you can then find out who is the hosting provider of the website and submit an abuse or DMCA form.

To remove the image showing in search results for your name, you have the right to request the removal of personal information relating to you to be removed.

  • Submit a Personal Information Removal Request Form to Google here.
  • Submit a Request to Block Bing Search Results here.
  • Submit a Request to Block search results in Yahoo Search here.

Report the image to social media

Despite these types of images not breaking the law, many do go against commonly used social media sites’ Community Standards and our sister service Report Harmful Content (RHC) may be able to help.

If images are still live a few days after reporting to social media, report this via the Report Harmful Content website and our colleagues will see what more they can do to help.


Other steps to take

Now that you have reported the image, you might be thinking ‘What else can I do to protect my images being used further from your social media and to monitor anything more being shared online?’. Well, we’ve already thought about this for you, here are a couple more steps you can take to protect your privacy and check up on your content online.

Privacy and security

It’s now a good opportunity to do a digital health check on your privacy and security across your accounts, you might want to consider how much of your social media profiles are private and what the public can see. Find more privacy advice here.

Reverse image searches

If you’ve ever seen an episode of MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show, you’ll know all about using reverse search tools to check whether your social media images are being used elsewhere. If you’re not aware of these tools, please find more information on reverse search tools here.

Google Alerts

To monitor what’s been shared online in association with your name, you can create Google Alerts. You can set these up with tags for your name so if anything is posted online you will be alerted via an email, here's how you can do this.

Take care of yourself

We understand that this can be a very violating experience to have your images stolen, whether they are intimate or not. Please take the time to look after yourself and reach out for some more support to help you cope with what has happened. Please find more support services on our website here.

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