Share

A cyber-flashing victim has backed a campaign to make sending explicit images without consent illegal after a stranger sent her explicit images on Instagram. 

Karen Whybro, 42, from Chelmsford, Essex, said she was sent an explicit photograph of a man’s genitals from a stranger on Instagram a few weeks ago.

Cyber-flashing is when a person is sent an unsolicited sexual image on their mobile device by a stranger nearby through social media, messages or other sharing functions.

There is currently no law which directly addresses cyber-flashing in England and Wales, despite the act being made illegal in Scotland 12 years ago. 

The mother-of-one said she was thankful that her daughter Nancy, five, had not been sitting next to her at the time and did not see the message. 

Karen Whybro (pictured), 42, from Chelmsford, Essex, has called for cyber-flashing to be made illegal after she was sent an explicit photograph of a man's genitals on Instagram

Karen Whybro (pictured), 42, from Chelmsford, Essex, has called for cyber-flashing to be made illegal after she was sent an explicit photograph of a man's genitals on Instagram

Karen Whybro (pictured), 42, from Chelmsford, Essex, has called for cyber-flashing to be made illegal after she was sent an explicit photograph of a man’s genitals on Instagram

She explained: ‘I opened a message request on Instagram to find it was an explicit photograph.

‘Thankfully my five-year-old daughter, Nancy, wasn’t sitting next to me at the time.

‘I use social media for my business and personal life and I opened the message instantly.

‘I will be honest it knocked me off my feet. I deleted it but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me.

‘The attitude some men have is that you would want to see it. There is a real arrogance to it but it is an issue of consent.’

The feminist safety campaigner has called on the English Government to do more to stop stranger’s sending unwanted explicit images which violates people’s privacy. 

Ms Whybro, who owns bridal boutique Rock The Frock, also said she felt ‘intimidated’ when a stranger on the London underground sent her message requests earlier this year.

She said that the man sitting opposite her on the Tube sent her multiple messages via the AirDrop function on his iPhone despite her repeatedly deleted his requests. 

The feminist safety campaigner (pictured) has called on the Government to do more to stop stranger's sending unwanted explicit images which violates people's privacy

The feminist safety campaigner (pictured) has called on the Government to do more to stop stranger's sending unwanted explicit images which violates people's privacy

The feminist safety campaigner (pictured) has called on the Government to do more to stop stranger’s sending unwanted explicit images which violates people’s privacy

She said: ‘I received several unwanted images via AirDrop and when I looked up I could see it was the guy sat opposite me. 

‘He kept looking down at his phone, sending image share requests and then looking at me again. To say I felt uncomfortable is an understatement.

‘I found it very intimidating in public even at my age.’

Her first experience of receiving an unwanted message happened a few years ago whilst she was out shopping. 

Ms Whybro said receiving an unsolicited sexual photograph shocked her more than she thought it would.

She added: ‘I was surprised by my own reaction as it shocked me more than I would’ve thought.

‘I’m not a prude but to receive something like that without warning is very unsettling.

‘It is creepy and unacceptable to be subjected to something like this.’ 

Her first experience of receiving an unwanted message happened a few years ago whilst she was out shopping. 

She explained: ‘A request to share a note via AirDrop landed on my phone. This was back when cyber flashing wasn’t really heard of.

‘I didn’t think anything of it and clicked open to find several aubergine emojis followed by ‘find me on Snapchat’ and then his handle.

‘It’s worrying that a stranger in a crowded street was watching me as I opened an unwanted message from them. It’s very disconcerting.

‘They could see me, I couldn’t see them, that’s the power trip they get, watching your reaction.’

The mother-of-one said she was thankful that her daughter Nancy, five, (both pictured) had not been sitting next to her at the time and did not see the explicit message

The mother-of-one said she was thankful that her daughter Nancy, five, (both pictured) had not been sitting next to her at the time and did not see the explicit message

Ms Whybro wants to encourage other victims to speak out about their experience and also advised people to secure their mobile and social apps

Ms Whybro wants to encourage other victims to speak out about their experience and also advised people to secure their mobile and social apps

The mother-of-one said she was thankful that her daughter Nancy, five, (both pictured) had not been sitting next to her at the time and did not see the explicit message

After her own experiences with cyber-flashing, Ms Whybro is backing a campaign by Bumble to criminalise sending unsolicited sexual images in England.

She said: ‘Bumble are highlighting the need for a law change and have the technology in place as a deterrent, but they need the government’s support.’

‘It is so important to raise awareness of just how widespread this problem is – and the impact it has on victims.’

Ms Whybro wants to encourage other victims to speak out about their experience and also advised people to secure their mobile and social apps. 

She said: ‘I’ve updated my phone settings and updated my phone identity from ‘Karen’s iPhone’ to something more obscure to try and deter people actively seeking to sexually assault women in this intrusive way.

‘If you are dating online, use an app with safety measures in place.’

What is cyber-flashing and is it illegal? 

Cyber-flashing is the act of someone deliberately sending a stranger an unsolicited sexual image using the AirDrop feature on an iPhone. These images are typically of male genitalia.

AirDrop, which is specific to iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones, as well as Apple Macs, uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect over a short range to other devices. 

People are often targeted by cyber-flashing through AirDrop on public transport due to the technology’s short range. 

There is currently no law which directly addresses cyber-flashing in England and Wales, despite the act being made illegal in Scotland 12 years ago.  

Cyber-flashing was criminalised in Scotland under Section 6 of the Sexual Offence in 2009, while a similar measure was also passed in the Texas Senate unanimously in May 2019. 

Police investigated the first ever case of cyber-flashing in 2015 after an unwanted graphic picture popped up on a shocked London commuter’s iPhone. 

There were three cases reported in 2016 and 15 in 2017. 

<!—->

Advertisement

Research by YouGov found that four in ten millennial women have been sent a picture of a man’s genitals without consent, while data by Bumble suggested that this figure could be even higher.

Findings from the dating website revealed that 48 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 have received an unsolicited sexual photograph in the last year alone. 

Bumble found that women are disproportionally recipients of the explicit photographs, which are sent on social media, messaging apps, Bluetooth, AirDrop and WiFi.

Speaking about the research, Ms Whybro said she does not believe that the statistics show the true extent of the problem, as she said it is not talked about.

She added: ‘Girls as young as 12 are getting these messages and don’t want to have this conversation with their parents or the police. 

‘Even at my age I was embarrassed about it so it will be hard to truly quantify just how much this happens.’ 

While some may argue that if the pictures are unwanted, the recipient can simply delete them, Ms Whybro said she believes it is a violation of privacy.

She said: ‘It needs to be taken as seriously as physical flashing in the street, they want the same reaction as when someone is flashed in person. It is creepy and not ok.

‘Digital flashing is flashing and it’s time the government stepped up to protect victims.

‘It was criminalised in 2009 in Scotland. Why is our Government so far behind in protecting women?

‘Women don’t feel they will be taken seriously because the government has not put laws in place to ensure victims are taken seriously.

‘It is a huge invasion of someone’s personal and private space. It is about consent.

‘We need stronger laws to show this is not ok.’

Bumble began cross-party Parliamentary consultations on November 2 alongside UN Women UK and the United Nations’ gender equality arm.

It comes after similar measures have been passed in other countries, including Scotland and areas in the US, with Bumble calling for England to also criminalise cyber-flashing.

Cyber-flashing was criminalised in Scotland under Section 6 of the Sexual Offence in 2009, while a similar measure was also passed in the Texas Senate unanimously in May 2019.

The House Bill 2789 came into force on September 1, 2019, and ruled that sending a lewd photograph without consent was punishable by a fine of up to $500.  

After her own experiences with cyber-flashing, Ms Whybro is backing a campaign by Bumble to to criminalise sending unsolicited sexual images in England

After her own experiences with cyber-flashing, Ms Whybro is backing a campaign by Bumble to to criminalise sending unsolicited sexual images in England

After her own experiences with cyber-flashing, Ms Whybro is backing a campaign by Bumble to to criminalise sending unsolicited sexual images in England

Earlier this year, a Conservative MP called for cyber-flashing to be made a criminal offence to stop Britons sending X-rated snaps to strangers using the AirDrop function on their iPhones.

Fay Jones, 35, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire,  has called for ‘digital flashing’ to be made a criminal offence.

She told MPs in January: ‘The scourge of cyber-flashing – where unwanted and unsolicited indecent photographs are distributed to mobile devices – needs to be made a criminal offence.’

Responding, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said: ‘We are running a call for evidence at the moment on producing a new violence against women and girls strategy,’ adding: ‘I am very, very aware of the offence about which she speaks and I very much want those sorts of 21st century online crimes to be dealt with.’ 

Later, Labour MP Liz Twist said: ‘Will the minister look again at introducing a statutory duty on public authorities to train frontline staff to recognise the signs of domestic abuse?’

Ms Atkins replied: ‘I see this as very much part of our overall efforts to ensure that people understand what domestic abuse is, the many forms it can take, and how it is everyone’s business.’

Police investigated the first ever case of cyber-flashing in 2015 after an unwanted graphic picture popped up on a shocked London commuter’s iPhone. 

There were three cases reported in 2016 and 15 in 2017. 

Figures published by the British Transport Police show there were another 35 offences recorded in the first half of 2019 compared to 34 for the whole of 2018.

The number of reported cases is also thought to be much lower than the actual number of instances, partly due to the fact that cyber-flashing is not in itself a crime. 

Some cases can be investigated under current public decency laws, or the Malicious Communications Act, but there are currently no specific provisions for cyber-flashing.

Professor McGlynn, an expert in the legal regulation of pornography, image-based sexual abuse and sexual violence, says that the Ministry of Justice ‘so far just keep refusing to act’ despite a number of reports and calls for change in legislation. 

She argued that, regardless of the ‘tangible impact’ of cyber-flashing, it remains a ‘breach of civil liberties’. 

She said: ‘The bottom line is we shouldn’t have to deal with this sort of thing. We shouldn’t have to change our AirDrop settings to private, or chastise ourselves for not doing so in the first place…

‘Cyber-flashing infringes our right to everyday life, a life without looking over our shoulder, worrying what’s around the corner.’ 

AirDrop, which is specific to iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones, as well as Apple Macs, uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect over a short range to other devices.

Its default setting is for ‘contacts only’, which means only people you know can see you.

But to share information with other people, users can make a change to the settings and change it to ‘everyone’. 

The setting allows anyone to send an image to that device where – unlike other messages apps such as WhatsApp or SMS – the photograph automatically appears on the screen.

It is then up to the user to choose to ‘accept’ the image, although they will have already seen a preview.

Source: Daily Mail UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *