Revenge porn in Chile: behind the scenes of one of the most popular cases

by Digital Rights LAC on June 12, 2015


A sentence was past for the best known case of revenge porn in Chile: a court ordered the payment of a substantial amount of compensation money for sharing, disseminating and uploading intimate Internet content without consent. The sentence shows the deep impact and the embarrassment of a girl, inflicted by others.

by Rayén Campusano Barra, Derechos Digitales.

About seven years ago, a group of teenagers decided to go to a park after school, where they consumed alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Later that evening, one of the boys challenged the only girl who was present among them, to perform a sexual act. Influenced by a mixture of dis-inhibition, being high and the effects of taking prescribed psychotropic drugs, she agreed. During that moment, one of the youths began to record a video of the act on his mobile phone, despite her protests.

Some time later, the same youngster began spreading the video, even though the female teenager had pleaded him many times not to share it with anyone. The video became viral on the Internet and reached very high levels of questionable popularity, so it was not long until she suffered the innumerable consequences. The girl was expelled from school, personal and family information was made public, she was hounded by the mainstream media, and she was the subject of constant harassment for a period of several years. All of this isolated her from her peers and made it difficult for her to live a normal life, leading to constant bouts of depression and even attempted suicide.

All of this forms part of the story contained within the civil suit for damages that the victim of this aggression filed in 2012 against the teenager who recorded and released the video. This year, the 2nd Civil Court of Santiago delivered its judgment, considering that there was a responsibility on behalf of the youngster, as well as his parents (as he was underage) for not stopping the actions of their son, resulting in the payment of 35 million Chilean pesos (about USD 58,000) for the damage caused.

The interesting part was that the court decision recognized that there must be consent in the collection, reproduction and publication of images in cases where the identity is easily recognizable and can damage the honor and image of a person. Although there is consent to perform acts of a sexual nature in the presence of others, such tolerance does not provide a license for further copying and distributing the material. Even less so if it involves the rights of minors, where it certainly is not valid to be excused for converting sexual behavior into something morbid.

Moreover, the compensatory judgment reminds us that currently the Chilean Penal Code contains some rules that punish crimes against the respect and protection of privacy of individuals and their families, but none to punish non-consensual disclosure of private, personal images. Nor are there enough rules to prevent subsequent acts of diffusion, demanding the speedy withdrawal of any content. This makes it difficult to resort to the police and prosecution bodies, leaving the option of civil suits as one of the few options for finding a solution, despite their high costs and extended delays in obtaining favorable rulings.

Revenge porn behavior is appearing more and more often in the press that it seems like it is becoming increasingly common. But in Chile, cases rarely end in any form of conviction, whether they be civil or criminal. Therefore, a legal reform that includes sanctions for those who violate the privacy of a person, when trust is involved in the making of private content, as well as allowing rapid action to prevent further dissemination.

However, the rules should not necessarily be considered as specific regulations for the Internet, but as a way of making a normative expression of the necessary rejection of all actions which seek to denigrate, injure or attack others (mostly women), as acts of sexual violence, whether you are merely sharing this type of erotic content or involved in possible acts of harassment.

The compensatory judgment is positive, because it carries a message that the damage resulting from these acts must be compensated. At the same time, the accounts of these events gives us insight into the seriousness of the consequences of such acts, without there being sufficient disincentives for those responsible for porn revenge. We welcome the fact that those who have suffered from this receive some compensation; however, we continue raising the alert about the lack of legal mechanisms, and social education, for such dramatic cases, as the one described, to never occur again.