Media in Australia: Mobile Communications and Culture

Kath Albury and Kate Crawford’s article ‘Sexting, Consent & Young People’s Ethics: Beyond Megan’s Story’ (2012), discusses issues raised by the Megan’s Story video and the issues it ignores. The video depicts a teenage girl named Megan leaving the girls toilet, who then sends a “sext” of herself with her mobile phone to a boy in her class. A sext refers to sexually explicit messages, photos or videos, usually sent between mobile phones. While in class, Megan realises that the image is being forwarded to other members of the class. They react by glaring at her, insulting her and passing her a piece of paper with an offensive note. While this is happening, we see shots of her becoming more and more worried and distressed. After her teacher receives the sext and looks at her with disappointment, she becomes overwhelmed with distress and leaves the classroom (ThinkUKnowAUS 2010). The message of the video is to be careful of what you send to other people as you never know what they will do with it. However, as Albury and Crawford’s article states, the video doesn’t make a single mention of the legal implications that face Megan and her classmates (2012, pp. 465).

Albury and Crawford believe that the video as a warning could be better if it made note of the criminal charges all the characters could face. Megan could be charged with “production and distribution of child pornography”. The boy who forwarded Megan’s sext faces the same potential charge, as will all the others in the classroom who forwarded the sext. Then there’s the teacher, who would be “charged with the possession of child pornography”. Albury and Crawford’s point is that Megan’s Story “fails to engage with the serious legal penalties facing young people who are charged for sexting, and the double role imposed on them as both criminals and vulnerable subjects.” (2012, pp. 466). While the classmates and the teacher would be offenders, Megan would be both a victim and an offender.

Liberty Victoria has made a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Sexting. In their submission, the civil liberties organisation questions the adequacy of existing laws. For example, under current laws, Megan, her classmates and her teacher could be criminally charged with a sexual offence and placed on a sex offenders register. Liberty Victoria believes this is too harsh for sexting, and it lowers the value of the register as a database of offenders posing a real risk to the community (Liberty Victoria 2012, pp. 2). Compared to a real sex offender who commits rape or sexual violence, Megan, her classmates and her teacher don’t pose a significant danger to the public.

References

Albury, K., Crawford, K., (2012) ‘Sexting, Consent & Young People’s Ethics: Beyond Megan’s Story’, Continuum, 26 (3), pp. 463-473.

ThinkUKnowAUS, 2010, Megan’s Story, 6 September, viewed 5 October 2012, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwKgg35YbC4>.

Inquiry into Sexting 2012, Liberty Victoria, viewed 5 October 2012, <http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/committees/lawrefrom/isexting/subs/S28_-_Liberty_Victoria.pdf>.

 

[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 5 OCTOBER 2012. MAY HAVE BEEN EDITED SLIGHTLY]

This is the eighth of ten blogs I wrote for my university subject, Media in Australia, in 2012. The next  two will be uploaded over the course of a few weeks, the links to which can be found here: https://stefanb33.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/media-in-australia-university-blogs/

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