Sex, Dating & Relationships

Bumble says UK cyberflashing bill isn't enough

The proposed cyberflashing legislation is currently based on harmful intent, which would be hard to prove.
By Anna Iovine  on 
Bumble app icon the display of an iPhone SE
Bumble is calling on UK cyberflashing legislation to be consent-based, not intent-based. Credit: Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Dating app Bumble — along with UN Women UK, TV personality Amy Hart, and magazine Grazia — are calling for change in the UK's proposed Online Safety Bill (OSB). The current legislation concerning cyberflashing, or sending unsolicited nude images without consent, is based on whether the sender had harmful intent. This is difficult to validate and prove, Bumble and supporters say, and would give room for those who cyberflash to claim it was a "joke."

Instead, Bumble's campaigning for the cyberflashing portion of OSB to be consent-based.

"The proposed cyberflashing legislation is based on proving malicious intent, which is out of step with other proposed and existing sexual violence laws," said cyberflashing expert, professor Clare McGlynn, in a press release. "This approach will leave a loophole in the law, ultimately making prosecutions against cyberflashing unlikely whilst protecting men and allowing them to claim a defense of 'it was a joke' or 'I was having a laugh.'"

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For years, Bumble has called for cyberflashing to be illegal, and established tools on the app to detect unsolicited nudes. "Cyberflashing is a form of everyday harassment that causes victims to feel distressed, violated, and vulnerable on the internet. We're encouraged by the UK Government's decision to introduce legislation, however, the law needs to be based on consent to send a clear message that sending explicit nude images is not a joke," said head of global public policy at Bumble, Payton Iheme.

Almost half (48 percent) of UK adults aged 18-24 have received a sexual photo they didn't ask for or consent to, found a survey of nearly 1,800 respondents in England and Wales conducted in October 2021. Thirty-five women have received an unsolicited sexual image while at work; 27 percent received one on public transport; and 19 percent walking down the street, according to a sample of over 2,000 UK adults conducted in February 2023.

Further, 86 percent of UK adults agree that more needs to be done to stop cyberflashing, according to the February 2023 survey. "Bumble's research shows that the majority of people in the UK agree that more needs to be done to address cyberflashing and alongside experts and key organisations, we're calling for the Government to move forward with a consent-based approach," Iheme continued.

Bumble, UN Women UK, and Grazia encourage people across the UK to sign a pledge(opens in a new tab) in support of a consent-based approach to cyberflashing legislation.

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Anna Iovine is the sex and relationships reporter at Mashable, where she covers topics ranging from dating apps to pelvic pain. Previously, she was a social editor at VICE and freelanced for publications such as Slate and the Columbia Journalism Review. Follow her on Twitter @annaroseiovine(opens in a new tab).

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