HomeLifestyleFashionCyberflashing: What is it and is it illegal?

Cyberflashing: What is it and is it illegal?


The dating app Bumble has just launched a campaign to criminalise cyberflashing in England and Wales, having published data that found one in four women believe it has become more prevalent during the pandemic.

The app’s research also found that, in the past year, nearly half of women (48 per cent) aged 18 to 24 received a sexual photo they did not ask for.

By joining forces with UN Women, Bumble intends to hold cross-party Parliamentary consultations with key policymakers and leading experts to move towards legislation and preventative solutions to end cyberflashing.

Here’s everything you need to know about cyberflashing.

What is cyberflashing?

Cyberflashing is the act of sending unsolicited obscene images, for example via AirDrop.

The Cambridge dictionary describes it as follows: “The act of someone using the internet to send an image of their naked body, especially the genitals (= sexual organs), to someone that they do not know and who has not asked them to do this.”

Is cyberflashing illegal?

Cyberflashing has been illegal in Scotland since 2010, however, there is no specific legislation against it in England and Wales.

Calls for the government to criminalise cyberflashing have increased in recent years, as its prevalence has become more apparent.

In July, a report published by The Law Commission said that while the Sexual Offences Act criminalised exposure of genitals, it was not clear whether it covered images or video recordings and new legislation should be introduced.

The report highlighted the harm caused by cyberflashing, stating: “It is often experienced as a form of sexual harassment, involving coercive sexual intrusion by men into women’s everyday lives.”

At the time of the report’s publication, Caroline Dinenage, minister for digital and culture, said the government would consider the commission’s recommendations.

“We are putting new legal responsibilities on social media companies to protect the British public. But we have to be confident we can hold the individuals using these sites to threaten, abuse and spread hate, accountable too.”

How common is cyberflashing?

In 2019, the British Transport Police recorded 66 reports of unsolicited photographs sent via the filesharing service AirDrop.

However, other surveys, such as the one conducted by Bumble, indicate that the problem is much more common than people think.

Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, said: “Cyberflashing is a pervasive issue that, like other forms of sexual harassment, disproportionately targets and impacts women and girls.

“As we build back post-pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to reconsider how we use and interact in public spaces – both online and offline. Digital spaces will only become a greater part of our daily lives, so for the sake of future generations it’s crucial that we get this right now, with preventative, education-driven solutions to online violence.”

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