EUROPEAN ‘RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN’ AS A REMEDY FOR IMAGE-BASED SEXUAL ABUSE: A CRITICAL REVIEW
Copyright (c) 2022 TNA Nguyen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Image-based sexual abuse, defined as the non-consensual creation or dissemination of private sexual images, has been proved to be a form of sexual violence against women. Despite the borderless impacts of image-based sexual abuse due to its online nature, very little scholarly attention has been given to the legal remedies that victims can take in a more regional context. This article advocates for a new joined-up approach that supports victims of image-based sexual abuse to reclaim control through the right to be forgotten under European data protection law. Under this right, the victims as data subjects can request the data controllers – service providers hosting abuse materials – to erase their non-consensual private sexual images from the platforms. Case study method was conducted with Google, Facebook and Telegram to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach, focusing on three main critiques: platform policies, reporting options, and removal practice in response to image-based sexual abuse. Based on the analyses of these digital platforms’ policies and practices, the research identifies five challenges and limitations: (1) limited extraterritorial application of domestic law while dealing with transnational abuse; (2) ambiguous language about how to remove data; (3) absence of standardised terms to define and address all forms of image-based sexual abuse; (4) lack of liability fulfilments from digital platforms; and (5) lack of multi-stakeholder cooperation addressing the abuse. The research concludes that the right to be forgotten is a promising remedy to protect victims of image-based sexual abuse in this digital era, but it needs a multi-stakeholder approach to be able to keep up with transnational violence like image-based sexual abuse.
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