By Louise Milligan
A disturbing sexting case in regional Victoria where photographs of scantily clad teenage girls were posted on Facebook has highlighted the need for law reform around sexting and social media.
The ABC's 7.30 program has revealed details of the case, as a Victorian parliamentary inquiry recommends new laws around sexting and disseminating photos publicly.
But the inquiry also recommended young people who receive sexts from people their own age should not be caught by child pornography laws.
The Victorian case involved a group of girls whose photos were used without their consent on a Facebook "sluts" page that published offensive comments about girls.
It is the third time the town has generated such a page in two years.
A group of girls, including two aged under 18 and one under 16, found "selfies" - shots taken by themselves in a state of provocative undress - wound up on a Facebook page.
Local mother Fiona Coe says the page displayed photos of the girls and splashed their names underneath with accompanying phrases.
"It said phrases like, you know, 'Your local slut', such and such a name with their photo or 'Look she wants this' or whatever. It was quite a put down and bullying, really," she said.
She reported it immediately to police and to Facebook, but the social network site wrote back to her and refused to take it down.
- And Facebook claims they are working on bullying, hate and removing sexual images? Yeah right!
The Facebook response said: "After viewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook's statement of rights and responsibilities."
Facebook did remove one full-frontal nude photo of a girl in the shower, but Ms Coe said the other pictures are still up and she wrote back to Facebook to explain the word slut is offensive and degrading.
"In a small community like this, you walk down town or locally and you're bound to know a lot of people that you see and there's going to be finger-pointing: 'Oh, that's the girl that was on Facebook. Apparently she's a slut'," she said.
A previous page with photos of girls, removed after the local newspaper revealed it, was even more degrading, according to the mothers.
"There was a site that said that girls were having sex with their fathers, that people were having sex with dogs, all sorts of the most disgusting, derogatory things," said local mother Faith McLaren.
While Generation X and the Baby Boomers passed notes in class and Generation Y text-messaged, the current younger generation uses Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat.
- So parents need to stop purchasing cell phones for their children with all the works! All they need is basic service in case of emergencies.
But differing from previous generations, their heady adolescence mistakes can now be found on the internet for permanent public consumption.
Many teens are unaware they could be accused of child pornography under current child pornography laws, meaning they could find themselves on the sex offender registry as a result.
- And this is also why the schools, or parents, should be teaching children about this. Don't wait until they've been accused of a sex crime, then it's too late!
[name withheld], a 15-year-old student from Melbourne's University High, told the Victorian parliamentary inquiry that consenting teenagers should not end up as registered sex offenders.
But she is also concerned her generation is getting carried away with itself without considering the consequences.
She said sexting behaviour can start from age 13 onwards.
"I think just pictures, not fully naked but in very revealing clothing, sexual poses, sort of thing," she said.
The inquiry recommended that young people of similar age who exchange sexts have a defence to child pornography charges.
But it also recommended the creation of a crime of dissemination for cases wherein the subject has not agreed to the content being spread.
You will notice in the video below they, once again, use the magical "1 in 5" number. We are so tired of hearing this, it's just a number people throw out without real facts to back it up. It's used all the time in news reports and other online articles. It's a meaningless number now, in our opinion. They also make it sound like dirty old men are doing this, when in fact it's mostly their peers who are approaching them sexually online.