April 23, 2012 at 1:41 PM ET
When he posted his ex-girlfriend's nude pictures on Facebook three months after their split, Ravshan ''Ronnie'' Usmanov, 20, probably wasn't thinking "Hey, this is my ticket to six months house arrest as the first social network-related conviction in Australian history!"
A similar thought probably wasn't going through the unidentified ex either when, during a happier time in their relationship, she posed for the pics: "Hey, this is my ticket to Facebook humiliation!"
Yet for both, that's exactly what happened. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
The six pictures, according to court documents, showed his ex-girlfriend ''nude in certain positions and clearly showing her breasts and genitalia.
Shortly after posting the pictures on his Facebook page in October last year, Usmanov emailed his girlfriend with the message: ''Some of your photos are now on Facebook.'' She had ended their relationship and moved out of their shared home less than three months earlier.
The woman, who the Sun-Herald has chosen not to identify, ran to Usmanov's flat at Pyrmont, demanding he take down the pictures. When he refused, she called the police.
Usmanov's lawyer said her client's crime was not a "serious offense,'' according to court documents — a claim on which sentencing Deputy-Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley quickly called shenanigans.
''What could be more serious than publishing nude photographs of a woman on the Internet, what could be more serious?'' Mottley said in court records.
Describing a type of reputation decimation both unique and common to the Internet age, Mottley explained, ''It's one thing to publish an article in print form with limited circulation. That may affect the objective seriousness of the offense but once it goes on the World Wide Web via Facebook, it effectively means it's open to anyone who has some link in any way, however remotely.''
Mottley's words are probably echoed by more than a few victims of recently shuttered U.S. "revenge porn" website Is Anyone Up, which the Village Voice recently described as "a virtual grudge slingshot of a website that gleefully publishes 'revenge porn' photos — cellphone nudes submitted by scorned exes, embittered friends, malicious hackers and other ne'er-do-well degenerates — posted alongside each unsuspecting subject's full name, social-media profile and city of residence."
Like a social website specially designed for Usmanov's type of act, Is Anyone Up operated for 16 months on the razor's edge of U.S. legality — protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which limits social media websites' liability against content posted by outside users. U.S. victims of such "revenge porn" have no legal power against the hosting websites. Further, since copyright belongs to the author of the video, which is hard to prove, most victims can only pursue privacy rights depending on their state's laws, with no chance of a jail sentence for the victimizer.
Even in Australia, which has much stricter Internet regulation and laws that the U.S., doing time for such personal damage doesn't come easy.
Usmanov pleaded guilty to publishing an indecent article, but appealed his six-month house arrest and received a suspended sentence instead.
Some privacy advocates in Australia are not pleased with the precedent.
''In a sense this is the tip of the iceberg,'' David Vaile, the executive director of the cyberspace law and policy centre at the University of NSW, told the Sun Herald. ''There are very few convictions under harassment and indecent publication. It's not treated as the same way as, say, breaking into a bank website. There is more police support for criminal damage. In this case, he didn't slash her tires in an act of revenge. He slashed her reputation.''
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