Roberta Metsola hopes to raise awareness on dangers of revenge porn

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 6 December 2016 in Interviews
Interviews

Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola last month launched a written declaration on combatting revenge porn.

Roberta Metsola | Photo credit: Natalie Hill


She's taken on the refugee crisis, tackling money laundering and is one of the EPP group's leading MEPs on Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee.

Last month, Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola took on another cause, launching a written declaration on 'combatting cyberbullying and the dissemination of revenge pornography'.

It was a high profile case involving a Maltese politician that initially sparked her interest, explains Metsola, because this served as a warning to everyone that "this could be perpetrated by anyone - not just teenagers."

Other cases followed, including that of Tiziana Cantone, an Italian woman who committed suicide after an intimate video of her was leaked online.

To combat revenge porn, Metsola suggests "a three-pronged approach", starting with education.

"There is still too little known on what happens when you post a photo on Whatsapp, which is eventually widely distributed by a person who does not have your best interest at heart. People think they are only sharing a photo with one person, not realising how easy it is for that photo to be uploaded, distributed or used against a particular person," she explains.

As such, she plans to meet with "several national stakeholders", in an effort to "encourage awareness campaigns, to teach people to be careful before sending out photos of themselves."

Metsola adds that  policymakers should also look at how to increase deterrence through criminal sanctions. "In certain countries, revenge porn is not a criminal offence, but distribution of porn is. Once you have revenge porn as an offence, it means you are personally liable for ruining another person's life.

"We need to push for heftier sanctions in order to deter people from attempting something like this," she says.

Metsola also notes that it took "high profile individual cases" that then "became a story discovered by everyone" for the issue of revenge porn to be discussed more widely, a situation she would like to avoid in future.

The third element of the MEP's "three-pronged approach" is to work more closely with private companies. While she acknowledges that, "we have seen certain advances in some countries, with for example Facebook taking images down more quickly and become more efficient in terms of age verification", she would like this attitude to "spread across all social media platforms, so that will be where I will try to push for more action."

To better tackle revenge porn, Metsola would like to see "more exchange of experiences between the member states and more discussions between authorities on how they are combatting revenge porn.

"There are already instruments that deal with grooming online in EU legislation, and I would be open to extending any legislative instruments to cover revenge porn."

However, her main goal at this point, she stresses is to "see how to raise awareness, without necessarily going down a two-year legislative route, although I would certainly be open to that too."

If you would like to contribute to an upcoming feature on revenge porn, please get in touch.

About the author

Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist for the Parliament Magazine

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