In a recent visit to a Tel Aviv high school, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) spoke to students about the dangers of ‘online shaming’. the Minister spoke to the students on Tuesday about the severity of the crime of shaming a peer and elucidated just how dangerous an offense it is. Shaked also warned the students about sharing intimate information online.
“People don’t know that invading others’ privacy and spreading photos of sexual content on social media constitute a criminal offense, which is punishable by up to five years in prison,” Shaked said.
The lecture was the spearhead of a new campaign, initiated this week by the Justice Ministry, which will see hundreds of Ministry workers lecture across the country regarding the dangers of the Internet and safe online practices. Shaked, who is a resident of Tel Aviv, felt it was appropriate for her to begin in her own city.
Shaked, who was recently a victim of an online shaming campaign, as well as having received online death threats, relayed to the students a story of one unsuspecting girl who innocently sent a picture of herself in her underwear to one of her girlfriends. The friend passed it on to another friend, who shared it with a whatsapp group. the photo then went viral, much to the shame of the original girl, who had never intended for such an outcome.
The Ministry felt that the initiative was necessary in order to raise student awareness of the amendment to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law that was passed by the Knesset in early 2014. The law states that the unwanted distribution of any material of sexual nature via social media is considered to be an offense under the definition of sexual harassment, and punishable by up to five years in prison.
In 2014, numerous charges were laid against teenagers who shared such images online. Often, the teenagers claim that they only shared the image in question with a friend or two, and that the images went viral afterwards.
The need to address the public ‘shaming’ issue is one that transcends borders. Mainstream media has begun addressing the problem in television shows and movies such as Duff, a Hollywood movie which came out earlier in 2015, and various others. Israel is one of the first countries to take a legal stand on this issue which can adversely affect teenagers on such a personal level. The Ministry hopes that through this campaign, the number of incidents where online shaming causes harm to teens in schools will drop significantly.