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Sexting and sharing photos

In our digital age, it’s easy for pictures and information to be quickly spread using technology like smartphones.
Sexting or taking, sending and sharing pictures via digital technologies could expose you to risk and can be considered a criminal offence, especially if it involves harassing people of any age.

In Australia there are laws protecting your privacy in certain situations including:

  • someone taking photos or videos of your private activities 
  • sharing photos or videos on the internet.

Find out what you can do to protect your privacy.

Sexting or sharing photos online can be considered cyber bullying—which is a criminal offence if it involves using the internet or mobile phone to make threats, stalk someone or menace, harass or seriously offend them. If you think you are being cyber bullied get legal help or talk to someone who can help.

If someone tries to blackmail you by threatening to publish private photos or videos of you, report it to the police.If you or someone you know is at risk of immediate harm, call the police. In an emergency, call 000.

What is sexting?

Sexting usually refers to:

  • taking naked or partially naked photos or videos of yourself (posing in a sexual way) and sending the photos via the internet or mobile phones
  • receiving or forwarding naked or partially naked photos or videos through mobile phones, internet and social networking sites such as Facebook or Instagram.

Sexting can include images from film, movies, videos, photos, and digital images sent by SMS, email, chat rooms and publishing on blogs.

Is sexting a crime?

It’s illegal to create, send, possess or intend to possess images of someone aged (or who appears to be aged) under18 (including yourself) who is:

  • involved in a sexual activity
  • in a sexual pose
  • acting in a sexual way
  • showing their sexual parts.

You can be charged with a criminal offence for ‘possessing child exploitation materials’ if you’re aged 10 or over.

If you make or possess (have) illegal sexting images or send them to other people you may be charged with distributing child exploitation material, which is a serious crime. If you’re found guilty of this offence you could be sentenced to up to 7 years in jail if you are 16 or under, or 14 years in jail if you’re 17 or older.

What should I do if I receive a photo or video?

You won’t get into trouble if you were sent sexual images without asking for them and you deleted the images as soon as you could.

If you know the sender, let them know you do not want them to send you any more images. You may also want to talk to a trusted adult or the police about what happened. Get legal advice.

If the person continues to send you images report it to the police. Don’t forward these images onto other people as you may be charged with distributing child exploitation material.

It’s important to respect other people’s choices and their right to privacy and dignity.

For more information about sexting and the use of digital technology see:

What if someone has shared a private photo of me?

If someone has shared a photo of you without your consent there are a number of things you can do:

  • if the image is on a social networking site like Facebook, you can report the image to Facebook and ask for it to be removed. The best way to do this is to use the report link that appears near the content.
  • if you think an image on Facebook violates your privacy rights you can also ask Facebook to have them removed. See Facebook’s image privacy rights
  • talk to someone you trust—a parent, friend, school counsellor or teacher
  • report it to the police if the images are being spread without your consent.

Taking photos or videos of someone without their consent

In Queensland, there are laws which make it illegal to take or distribute photos or videos of someone’s private parts or private activities without their consent —regardless of how old they are. 
It’s a criminal offence to take or distribute photos or videos of someone without their consent when the person is:

  • in a private place, or
  • doing a private act in circumstances where they would reasonably expect privacy.

Private acts may include things like undressing, using the toilet, showering or bathing or having sex in a place where a person would reasonably expect privacy.

It’s also a criminal offence to take or distribute photos or videos of someone’s genital or anal region without their consent in circumstances where they would reasonably expect privacy. This applies even if their genitals or anal region are covered by underwear.

For example, it’s illegal to use a mobile phone in a public place to take photos of women’s underwear under their skirts without their consent.   

The penalty for this type of offence is up 2 years imprisonment.

Our privacy page has more information about: 

  • taking photos or videos of your private activities 
  • sharing photos or videos on the internet. 
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