Australian Study Finds High Rates of Non-Consensual Photo Sharing

A recent study on ‘image based abuse’ in Australia shows just how big a problem this has become. RMIT and Monash University surveyed almost 4,300 people and found that one in five (20 percent) said they’d had sexual images or video taken without their consent. Of these, 11 percent reported the material had been shared, while 9 percent had experienced threats that it would be.

The findings were higher than any of the researchers had anticipated, yet Dr Anastasia Powell of RMIT believes the true ‘rate of victimisation’ is probably even higher. Many of the respondents who said non-consensual images had been taken may be unaware that these pictures have been shared if they are posted on a site dedicated specifically to sharing pornography. According to Powell, “there’s a hidden dimension that you just can’t capture with a survey.”

The popular term used to describe the non-consensual sharing of explicit images is revenge porn. However, this refers more specifically to material posted after a couple splits up. In some cases, these pictures may have originally been taken consensually, but they are later published with the intent to humiliate the ex-lover. Powell and other researchers opted for the term ‘image-based abuse’ as a more accurate way to describe the broad scope of the problem. Some perpetrators are motivated by revenge, while others have complex reasons for wanting to control or intimidate the victim. Sexual gratification, social status and monetary considerations can all play a role. At Reputation Defender, we assist with the removal of compromising images and video and help victims create better content, but it can be very hard to rebuild a reputation after this type of abuse.

Victims Face Many Challenges

The study found that the majority of perpetrators were male (fifty-four percent), while victims were equally likely to be female or male. The rates were highest for teenagers aged 16-19 and slightly elevated for people in their twenties. The LGBTQ community was more likely to be victimised, as well as other marginalised groups including Indigenous people and anyone with a disability. Women were more likely to be threatened by someone they knew personally (such as an ex-partner) than men.

Researchers found victims were about twice as likely to report experiencing high levels of psychological stress compared to people who had never experienced this type of abuse. For many victims, it was a form of sexual violation that threatened their autonomy and dignity.

The findings correspond with instances of image based abuse around the world. Victims face severe reputation damage which can have long-term repercussions on almost every aspect of their lives. The public images can make it difficult to hold a job, build a career, or form long term relationships. They leave individuals struggling with self-esteem and wondering how far the perpetrator will go. In a recent case of revenge porn involving a US marine, the victim said she wanted to “stop living in fear.” Over time the stress can have extremely negative consequences. An Italian girl committed suicide in September 2016 after a long battle to remove a non-consensual sex tape.

Victims’ difficulties are compounded by the fact that many people fail to take images-based abuse seriously and some even blame the victim. Historically, police have been slow to prosecute perpetrators, even when significant evidence exists, but this is beginning to change as many countries adopt laws geared specifically toward internet crime. In 2015, revenge porn became a criminal offense in the UK; Powell and the other researchers recommend that Australia adopt a similar federal policy rather than the current system where standards vary from state to state.

In the meantime, victims need all the help they can get. Don’t hesitate to contact our experts at Reputation Defender if you are struggling with this type of abuse.

4 Tips for Handling a PR Nightmare

Bad publicity is something every company fears. One misstep has the potential to create a huge amount of backlash if it is picked up by the press and becomes a major news story. Marketing and communications professionals are at the front lines when it comes to PR, but if the issue is big enough it will eventually come back to the company’s leaders, especially the CEO.

Reputation incidents can pass quickly, or they can become an ongoing issue that eventually takes down the entire company. Much of this depends on how leaders deal with the situation from the outset. A genuine, nuanced response, one that takes into account the seriousness of the problem while emphasising the organisation’s desire and ability to fix what went wrong, can go a long way to neutralising the damage.

Here are four tips from company leaders who’ve successfully negotiated this delicate situation:

  • Be Transparent – In 2011, the young communications manager at Bath City Football Club, Ned Vaught, found himself at the centre of a controversy when the company offered an 80 percent discount to local groups, including one nearby Polish community. Public comments from fans were taken up by local and national news organisations. Rather than hiding, Vaught responded to every interview request. Before the controversy was over, he had appeared on BBC, talkSPORT, and ITV West Country. His steady communication of the company perspective helped to minimise the negativity the story had generated. Vaught commented afterwards that “it’s much better to be out in the open” in situations like this.
  • Offer Specific Solutions – Brian Berry was unlucky enough to be CEO of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) when the Daily Mail took up a story about a couple whose house had collapsed after they picked a builder from FMB’s member list. Berry responded immediately to requests for comment and expressed his sympathy for the couple on an interview with BBC’s Rip off Britain programme. He also explained what the firm was doing to address the issue: the builder responsible for the faulty house was suspended from FMB membership and eventually dismissed, and the organisation went on to establish stricter entry criteria.
  • Emphasise a Positive Track Record – In 2007, a Virgin Trains crash in Cumbria killed one passenger as a result of a missed inspection. The company took some flak for the incident, but Virgin head, Sir Richard Branson, tried to put the issue in perspective in a TV interview where he pointed out that his company had safely transported half a million passengers without facing a situation like this. Branson’s comment was successful because he maintained sympathy and understanding for the passengers involved in the incident, while at the same time pointing out that, overall, his company had a good track record.
  • Be Prepared – Preparation is everything when it comes to reputation. Companies that have a clear plan for how to handle potential issues will be responsive right from the start. They will be better equipped to coordinate the company’s various branches so everyone is telling the same story. Allyson Stewart-Allen, CEO of International Marketing Partners, underlines the importance of having a proactive strategy. Every executive should “know what the party line is and how to get that message out to their own national press” she says.

Consistent reputation management is an important part of any preparation effort. Reputation Defender’s professional ORM services help to build an in-depth online profile and assist companies with reputation repair as soon as a negative story surfaces. Contact our reputation specialists to learn more.

How to Create the Perfect Professional WordPress Page

Managing your online reputation has never been more important. One of the best ways to show yourself in the most positive light online – and reduce the visibility of any negative content in search results – is to create your own blog.

WordPress.com is one of the most popular blog services, and is completely free. It’s as simple as following these few steps to create a personal or professional blog that will help you to develop a positive personal brand online.

Step 1: Choose a Subject

First, think of something you’re uniquely knowledgeable or passionate about and then figure out if anybody else will want to read about it.

Choosing a completely niche subject will leave you with very few readers. Equally, opting for a popular subject you’ve got no interest in will lead to some unenthusiastic and uninteresting posts. So try to find the right balance.

For a professional blog it’s simple: write about your career. For example, if you’re looking for a career in healthcare show how much you know with a blog about new advances in medical science.

Step 2: Choose a Domain Name

The Domain Name is essential to helping readers find your blog. It needs to be relevant, clearly communicate your content and also stand out from other Domain Names.

Registering a unique domain name will usually cost a small fee. Alternatively, WordPress will host your blog for free, but you will have WordPress included in your URL. A free WordPress URL will therefore be something like “myblogtitle.wordpress.com”.

Step 3: Choose a Design

No matter how erudite your prose is, a poorly designed webpage will turn users away before they’ve even read a single word. WordPress provides a wide range of free theme packages that can bring your blog to life.

Once you’ve chosen the artistic theme to suit your content, you can think about incorporating other design and interface features. Whether using pictures or inserting video links, extra multi-media elements are a great way to make your content more engaging.

Step 4: Post Regularly

Updating regularly and reliably will keep readers engaged. The more regularly readers visit your blog; the more likely they are to share posts and spread your blog to a wider audience.

So, now you know the simple steps involved, what’s stopping you from improving your online reputation with a blog?

Are 1 in 4 UK Businesses Unprepared for GDPR?

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will come into force in May 2018. However, recent research has indicated that nearly a quarter of UK businesses are completely unprepared for it.

The survey was conducted of senior IT decision makers at major UK companies by information management company Crown Records. In the survey, they found that as many as 44% of senior IT specialists believed the GDPR wouldn’t apply to them once the UK had left the European Union. A further 24% had already cancelled all preparations to comply with the regulation.

The GDPR is a far reaching EU regulation designed to unify and strengthen data protection laws across the European Union. Data protection regulations are designed to protect the personal information of individuals online. Through an extensive legal framework, the GDPR holds any business accountable for protecting personal information. By ensuring data isn’t kept indefinitely, it also enshrines the principle of ‘the right to be forgotten’, which is a key aspect for individuals maintaining their reputation online.

The GDPR will go into force by May 2018. Failure by any business, large or small, to follow these regulations will result in hefty fines and sanctions. Sanctions for noncompliance with the regulations include fines up to 4% of global turnover, which could be as high as 20 million euros.

The alarming level of confusion surrounding the GDPR seems to be largely caused by the UK’s currently confusing relationship with the European Union. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has left many people under the impression that EU laws will no longer apply to them.

In the case of the GDPR, EU laws are definitely being retained. For starters, the GDPR is coming into force in 2018, before the UK will have fully withdrawn from the EU. The UK government has also expressed its intention to retain many EU regulations, including the GDPR. Furthermore, the UK’s Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matthew Hancock, has confirmed that the UK is intending to continue with the GDPR even after it has left the EU. So, those 24% of businesses that have dropped their plans to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations will be running a serious risk of hefty fines.

With so many business leaders confused about the GDPR, it will be essential for the UK government to clearly clarify the legal situation. Otherwise, many businesses could face major sanctions.

Which 4 Social Media Platforms Will Enhance Your Online Reputation?

It’s predicted that by 2018 the UK alone will have over 17 million Twitter users. That’s just one indicator of how essential social media has become for businesses and private individuals today. A strong presence on social media can greatly enhance your online reputation, whereas a limited presence can hinder it.

To start, there are some platforms you may want to steer clear of. Myspace and Bebo are two examples of outdated social networks. Both popular at their peak, Bebo was sold and closed in 2008 and Myspace has seen a significant collapse in users. Today, Bebo exists as a messaging app while Myspace – under the ownership of Justin Timberlake – has shifted from social media into a music and news media platform. Google+ is another largely ignored social network. Of 2.2 billion Google users, only 1% of them were actively on Google+ in 2015.

YouTube

YouTube is the world’s largest video sharing platform and actually the world’s second largest search engine. Every month, users watch 3.25 billion hours of videos on YouTube. There’s a staggering opportunity to reach consumers through YouTube. Using video content can be a great way to strongly engage users through multimedia. Videos made on YouTube can also be shared easily on other social media platforms, so a YouTube profile perfectly complements a social media network.

Twitter

With 328 million monthly active users in 2017’s first quarter, Twitter is very popular. Designed for short messages of no more than 140 characters, as well as picture and video sharing, Twitter is a great and easy way to interact with customers as individuals.

Facebook

Facebook had over 32 million user profiles in 2016 and that’s just in the UK. Facebook is great for sharing pictures, statuses and videos, and communicating directly with customers. A strong Facebook presence is a great way to improve your online reputation.

It’s not just businesses that benefit from Facebook. 60% of employers use social media to screen candidates. A great Facebook profile lets you appear professional and highlights any personal detail you think make you interesting to employers.

LinkedIn

Different from Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn is a networking tool for professionals. LinkedIn is particularly useful for individuals seeking to boost their online reputation and enhance their careers. A well-made LinkedIn profile with plenty of connections is a great way to appear professional to potential employers.