Explainer: What to do when your 'private' photos are leaked online

Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have policies against such content and can pull them down once reported. [iStockphoto]

An alarming and growing trend in the recent past of non-consensual sharing of intimate photos and videos on social platforms is on the rise.
The main targets seemingly being politicians, celebrities, and public figures.

Once the images or videos leak into the public domain, the victim's names immediately shoot up to the day's trending topics, sometimes even a week. Experts have found that this leaves a trail of emotional and psychological damage.

However, in Kenya, very few people have familiarised themselves with what the law says about the infringement of one's privacy and digital security.
If you fall victim, here are a few steps you can follow to mitigate the situation.

Remain calm

It is natural for the victim to feel embarrassed, violated, and upset. However, overreacting with the aim of seeking revenge or defending oneself can make the situation more ugly as Cybercrime expert Dennis Kitulo advises.

"Sharing of intimate material without someone's consent is referred to as 'revenge porn'. Once your explicit photos leak online without your consent, one can get distressed automatically. However, you need to stay calm and most importantly, reach out to someone you trust for guidance and emotional support. In this case, I recommend a counsellor," Kitulo says.

Document evidence

Since your rights have been violated, it is key to document the evidence to put up a strong case. In this instance, you need to save the URL links, texts, and screenshots of the leaked material as evidence to be used when reporting the incident.

"Remember, without evidence or proof of the material, there is no case," the cybercrime expert warns.

Report the leak to the social platform

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have policies against such content and can be of help to pull them down once reported. However, this can get out of hand when such malicious material is shared on platforms such as Telegram and WhatsApp.

Report to authorities

Once the case is reported to the nearest Police Station and an OB number is obtained, detectives are supposed to commence investigations and anyone held culpable can be convicted under Section 37 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018.

Under this law, the offences that attract the above punishment include transferring, publishing, or disseminating intimate or obscene images of another person.

"These laws were enacted to, among other things; protect the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and access to information as guaranteed under the Constitution. It covers both online and offline abusers," Kitulo added.

"A person who transfers, publishes, or disseminates images, including making a digital depiction available for distribution or downloading through a telecommunications network or through any other means of transferring data to a computer, the intimate or obscene image of another person commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh200, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both," the Act states.

Once the case is proven, one can sue for defamation under Article 33 (3) of the Constitution which provides that in the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, every person shall respect the rights and reputation of others.

Revenge porn violates this law.