It’s unlikely Woman’s Day would fall foul of new “revenge porn” legislation recently introduced into Parliament, despite publishing photographs of AFL players in the altogether without their permission. But it’s a different story for the sources who sent the images to the magazine.

Yesterday the weekly women’s mag published nude and nearly nude photos of Collingwood AFL players Dane Swan and Travis Cloke. The magazine alluded to an “extremely graphic” video of Swan that it did not publish, and editors covered the men’s genitalia with “too rude” stickers. The magazine said the players sent the pictures through social media to women who “declined to be named”. Both players have long-term partners.

Crikey understands the photos were shopped around to various outlets and TV stations, including the footy-mad Herald Sun, which declined to publish them. While Woman’s Day declined to speak to Crikey this morning, the publication’s most recent issue appears to hang the public interest reason for publication on two things: the fact that the AFL’s social media policy prohibits players “accessing, downloading or transmitting … any sexually explicit material” and the fact that the players were sending explicit photos to women other than their partners (though, the mag admitted, “it is unclear whether the photos were sent while the men were in their current relationships”). The outlet wrote that it was expected the club and the AFL would now investigate the matter, but Collingwood shrugged off the photos, saying in a statement it was a private matter for the players.

A private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code introduced into Parliament last year by Labor backbenchers Terri Butler and Tim Watts seeks to make it a crime for those sent sexually explicit, private images to then share those pictures without the subject’s consent. The laws aim to tackle the scourge of “revenge porn”, whereby former partners post sexually explicit photos online of people they used to date or be involved with in a bid to punish or humiliate former sexual partners.

There’s a long history of nude photos and similar being sold to the media, to various levels of public outrage. But the bill is largely aimed at private individuals rather than the media. In fact, it contains an exemption for media organisations, with an exemption if the images or videos “[have] the character of news, current affairs, information or a documentary” or are “material consisting of documentary or opinion on, or analysis of, news, current affairs, information or a documentary”.

A person can also be exempt if they “reasonably believed the conduct to be in the public interest”.

The draft of the legislation was designed to target individual responsibility, looking to punish those who upload or distribute the photos, such as the women who sold the photos of the Collingwood players to Woman’s Day. It is understood that the broad exemption for media was designed to prevent the legislation potentially being used to censor legitimate news.

Yesterday, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire told Triple M both players were “idiots” for having sent the images in the first place. “It would seem that somebody’s sucked these idiots into sending out photos, and as a result they’ve got them and sold them to the media.”

Several submissions to the parliamentary committee, examining the legislation proposed by Butler and Watts, slammed media “victim blaming” by suggesting that those who took the photos and shared them confidentially and with consent were to blame for them being passed on without their consent.

Peter Fray

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