Attorney general alerts online companies to BC’s image-sharing law

Attorney general alerts online companies to BC’s image-sharing law

Niki Sharma says the Intimate Images Protection Act will come into force in the coming months and create new legal mechanisms to stop the distribution of such photos online.

Article content

BC’s attorney general has sent a letter to technology companies warning they could face orders to stop the distribution of intimate images of BC residents that have been shared without their consent.

Advertisements 2

Article content

Niki Sharma said Thursday the Intimate Images Protection Act will come into force in the coming months and create new legal mechanisms to stop the online distribution of images such as near-nude photos, videos, livestreams and digitally altered content.

Article content

In a letter sent to companies, including Twitter, Meta, OnlyFans, and Pornhub, Sharma said they could be required to delete, de-index or destroy images, or provide information that is needed to help with the removal.

“The letters are very clear, and they’re all on notice, that circulating or distributing intimate images is sexualized violence and will not be tolerated,” Sharma said at a news conference.

“I expect these technology companies to join me in condemning these terrible acts, and I expect them to share our goal of protecting people over profits.”

Article content

Advertisements 3

Article content, a national hotline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, says there’s been a 150 per cent increase in reported threats to distribute young people’s intimate images online over the past six months.

Sharma said the new law sets out liability for an online company that hasn’t taken reasonable steps to address the non-consensual distribution of photos or videos on their site, which can include an order for damages.

She said BC’s process would be complementary to the federal Criminal Code, which already outlaws the sharing of intimate images without consent.

“This process is set up to protect victims in terms of taking down the images and going after civil claims of damages against people in the event that they were harmed by those images,” he said.

Advertisements 4

Article content

Sharma acknowledged that jurisdictional issues are “complicated” when dealing with international technology companies and images distributed outside of BC, but said the province does have mechanisms to enforce orders beyond its border.

“I expect them to comply with a court order from a British Columbian court with respect to a British Columbian citizen and their image,” he said. “So that means where it’s distributed on their website, no matter where it is, the obligation is to take it down.”

Sharma said he has already had a “productive” meeting with representatives from Google and expects to meet with other companies to talk about systems they can put in place to comply with the act.

“I expect that a lot of companies are willing to protect people from this type of sexualized violence and (Google) certainly indicated that as well,” she said.

Advertisements 5

Article content

BC’s law comes as the federal government recently introduced a bill that would add those convicted of the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and extortion to the national sex offender database.

More news, fewer ads: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For just $3.50 per week, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Provinces.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation

Advertisements 1

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours