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Image-based abuse: The EP finally reacts

European Parliament’s Committee on Womens’ Rights and Gender Equality proposes to halt image-based abuse on porn platforms. Digital Services Act update

It’s good news and hope for millions of women and members of the LGBTIQ* community! This morning European Parliament’s Committee on Womens’ Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM Committee) adopted its Opinion on the Digital Services Act. In it – a long awaited position to curb online image-based abuse on porn platforms.

Adoption of the amendment, introducing additional requirements to stop dissemination of image-based abuse material on porn platforms, came three weeks after victims of online image-based abuse addressed the EU Institutions in an open letter, appealing to take measures in the Digital Services Act (DSA):

“We have been filmed secretly at saunas or at festivals, we had our cloud servers hacked by unknown perpetrators, or we were in a relationship with someone who stole our pictures. Now, we fear for our physical safety, suffer termination of employment and/or deal with severe mental health illnesses.”

Victim-survivors are calling out porn platforms that are making money on their abuse. In 2020, xHamster, one of the world’s largest porn platforms with more visitors than TikTok and LinkedIn, reported an increase in demand, in some case of more than 100%, for categories such as “Exposed”, “Hidden Cam“ and “Public” – exactly the categories where abuse is shared.

Proposed measures, if adopted in the DSA, could effectively help victims to request takedowns on non-consensually shared images, but also prevent sharing of unlawful content at the first place, and request that content moderators of porn platforms get trained to recognise abuse.

What happens next?

FEMM Opinion on the DSA will be passed on to the lead rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (Denmark, S&D) and the leading Internal Market committee working on the legislation, who is scheduled to vote on the file later in November.

The same Amendment (No 1521) was already proposed in the Internal Market committee by the shadow-rapporteur MEP Alexandra Geese (Germany, Greens/EFA). HateAid urges Parliament’s lawmakers to use this once-in-a-generation momentum and pass effective measures to counter image-based online abuse.

Now with the FEMM committee’s strong support, there should be even higher stakes to take the side of the victims of revenge porn and other forms of image-based online abuse in the European Parliaments’ position on the Digital Services Act.