The Emerald International Handbook of Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse

ISBN: 978-1-83982-849-2, eISBN: 978-1-83982-848-5

Publication date: 4 June 2021


Henry, N. (2021), "Introduction", Bailey, J., Flynn, A. and Henry, N. (Ed.) The Emerald International Handbook of Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse (Emerald Studies In Digital Crime, Technology and Social Harms), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 267-270.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Nicola Henry. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This chapter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of these chapters (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at


This chapter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of these chapters (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

The original idea around the development of the internet in the 1960s was that machines would “talk to each other” in exchanging messages, data, and programs (Leiner et al., 2009). Several decades later the era of the “interactive web”(or Web 2.0) has ushered in user-generated content, social networking, and cloud technology, making the visual image – photo, animation, and video – a staple of digital communications, epitomized by content hosting sites, social media, multimedia messaging, video chat, live-streaming, and online gaming. Digital technologies have facilitated a unique means through which to communicate and exchange information both textually and visually, and are an important medium for curiosity, pleasure, spectacle, and political activism. And yet images can also be harmful, not only for those depicted in the image but also for those who are exposed to the viewing of those images. Key components of harm – particularly in the digital era – relate to the permanence, accessibility, and spread of images on a global scale.

This section of the Handbook focuses on image-based harms, which we define as the creation or dissemination of images that denigrate and subjugate the person depicted in the image, or which expose the viewer to vicarious affect or trauma. While several chapters in this Handbook discuss the legal, social, or psychological implications of image-based harms, the three chapters in this section on image-based harms are based on original empirical research on three important issues: exposure to abhorrent violent material; pornography use and exposure; and image-based sexual abuse.

First in relation to exposure to abhorrent violent material, there have been growing media reports of social media content moderators experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their day-to-day work (see e.g., Boran, 2020); of the harmful exposure of law enforcement personnel to child sexual abuse material (see e.g., Vedelago, 2020); and of individual users viewing acts of violence online either in real time or after the fact (see e.g., Lungumbu, 2020). After the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, which were live-streamed by the gunman on March 15, 2019, the Australian Government passed legislation which gives the Australian eSafety Commissioner powers to issue take-down notices to digital platforms that host abhorrent violent material (AVM), with failure to do so potentially resulting in criminal prosecution. AVM is defined in the legislation as “audio, visual, or audio-visual material recorded of extreme violent acts,” which includes terrorist acts involving serious physical harm or death, murder or attempted murder of another person, torture, rape, or kidnapping involving violence (Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019).

Despite the growing attention to this issue, as well as accompanying legislative reform, there remains little scholarly attention to the short- or long-term impacts of viewing this type of content. In their chapter, Madeleine Novich and Alyssa Zduniak address this gap by examining the ways in which images of police violence shape perceptions of police, as well as the harms that exposure causes individual users of social media. Drawing on 19 interviews with a diverse sample of urban male and female college students, Novich and Zduniak found that participants of color were more adversely affected than white participants in terms of forming negative perceptions of police and experiencing emotional distress and fear of victimization. Although Novich and Zduniak acknowledge that the publication and circulation of violent imagery is also a political tool designed to garner awareness, outrage, and action, they argue that images of police brutality “affirm what minority communities have experienced for decades”; that is, they further entrench deeply held fears of victimization. They argue that for people of color, viewing images of police brutality restricts their social mobility and behavior and leads to “a traumatic impact on the brain … brain dysregulation, stress, PTSD, and self-destructive behavior.” These harms have been recently discussed in relation to the video that went viral in May 2020 of a white Minneapolis police officer's murder of African American man George Floyd. According to BBC journalist Sandrine Lungumbu (2020), “It is mentally and physically draining for me to watch yet another unarmed black man dying under arrest at the hands of another white police officer.”

While the vicarious effects of exposure to violent online content is a relatively new issue, the debate about the harms of pornography on adults and young people has been at the forefront of the feminist agenda for the past four decades. In relation to adults, for instance, Andrea Dworkin (1985) argued that pornography subordinates women, creating a sexual dynamic which normalizes sexual violence as sex “the putting-down of women, the suppression of women, and ultimately the brutalization of women” (p. 9). In relation to the effects of pornography on children, Michael Flood (2009) contends that these are likely to be: “emotional disturbance, sexual knowledge and liberalised attitudes, shifts in sexual behaviour, and sexist and objectifying understandings” (p. 384). He adds that for boys and young men, “the use of pornography may exacerbate violence-supportive social norms and encourage their participation in sexual abuse” (Flood, 2009, p. 384).

Samantha Keene begins her chapter on the impacts of pornography with a succinct summary of the long-standing pornography harms debate. While Keene argues that much mainstream pornography is “infused with themes of male dominance, aggression, and female subservience,” and that pornography plays a key role in the development of normative sexual scripts and the endorsement of violence against women and girls, her conclusions about the harms and pleasures of pornography are far more nuanced. She draws inspiration from “critical porn studies,” which seeks to move beyond the pro- and anti-pornography dichotomy that focuses on “harms and their impacts or possibilities for legislative interventions or prohibitions” (Smith & Attwood, 2014, p. 7), and instead “draw[s] on insights from disciplines that acknowledge the complexity of culture and are aware of the shifts and continuities in the ways that sex and media are constructed historically” (Smith & Attwood, 2014, p. 11).

Based on interviews conducted with 24 heterosexual adults living in Aotearoa/New Zealand about their pornography use, Keene argues that empirical studies can help to contribute to a critical understanding of “the complex ways that pornography is experienced by viewers and their partners.” She found that although both male and female participants were reflexive of the misogynistic representations of sex, gender, and sexuality in mainstream heterosexual pornography, men tended to be more concerned about their own sexual performances, whereas women's experiences were shaped by how their intimate partners related to them sexually, which in some cases included sexual coercion or sexual assault.

The third and final chapter in this section, by Olga Marques, focuses on image-based sexual abuse, also known as “nonconsensual pornography” (see e.g., Citron & Franks, 2014; Henry et al., 2020; McGlynn & Rackley, 2017), which refers to the nonconsensual taking or sharing of nude or sexual images, including threats to share images. Image-based sexual abuse began to receive attention in the early 2010s when the term “revenge porn” came into popular usage with media reports of websites that hosted nonconsensual nude or sexual images of musicians, sportspersons, and celebrities, as well as nonconsensual intimate images of “ordinary” people, often accompanied by their personal details, such as their name, occupation, geographical location, and social media handle.

As Marques notes, there is a lack of empirical research with sexual violence service providers on the topic of image-based sexual abuse. She conducted interviews with 10 frontline professionals to garner their perspective on the nature and harms. She argues that the sharing of images compounds the harms to sexual violence survivors by “adding a virtual – and indelible – ‘permanent remembering’ of the violence.” Marques argues that the trauma of the threat that the images can be discovered and seen at any time without warning “becomes part of the crisis that frontline professionals must also address.”

The chapters in this section are a timely reminder of the enduring power of images that survive and linger in both space and time, which can have significant implications for both the subjects of the image as well as the spectators.


Boran, 2020 Boran, M. (2020, February 27). Life as a Facebook moderator: ‘People are awful. This is what my job has taught me.’ The Irish Times. Retrieved from

Citron and Franks, 2014 Citron, D. , & Franks, M. (2014). Criminalizing revenge porn. Wake Forest Law Review, 49, 345391. doi:10.1177/1557085117698752

Dworkin, 1985 Dworkin, A. (1985). Against the male flood: Censorship, pornography, and equality. Harvard Women's Law Journal, 8, 129.

Flood, 2009 Flood, M. (2009). The harms of pornography exposure among children and young people. Child Abuse Review, 18, 384400.

Henry et al., 2020 Henry, N. , McGlynn, C. , Flynn, A. , Johnson, K. , Powell, A. , & Scott, A. J. (2020). Image-based sexual abuse: A study on the causes and consequences of non-consensual nude or sexual imagery. London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Leiner et al., 2009 Leiner, B. M. , Cerf, V. G. , Clark, D. D. , Kahn, R. E. , Kleinrock, L. , Lynch, D. C. , … Wolff, S. (2009). A brief history of the Internet. ACM SIGCOMM - Computer Communication Review, 39(5), 2231.

Lungumbu, 2020 Lungumbu, S. (2020, June 7). George Floyd killing: Why I decided not to watch the video. BBC World Service. Retrieved from

McGlynn and Rackley, 2017 McGlynn, C. , & Rackley, E. (2017). Image-based sexual abuse. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 37(3), 534561.

Smith and Attwood, 2014 Smith, C. , & Attwood, F. (2014). Anti/pro/critical porn studies. Porn Studies, 1(1–2), 723. doi:10.1080/23268743.2014.887364

Vedelago, 2020 Vedelago, C. (2020, June 19). ‘Clarity of purpose’: How child abuse investigators cope with their job. The Age. Retrieved from

Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse: International Perspectives and Experiences
Section 1 TFVA Across a Spectrum of Behaviors
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Is it Actually Violence? Framing Technology-Facilitated Abuse as Violence
Chapter 3 “Not the Real World”: Exploring Experiences of Online Abuse, Digital Dualism, and Ontological Labor
Chapter 4 Polyvictimization in the Lives of North American Female University/College Students: The Contribution of Technology-Facilitated Abuse
Chapter 5 The Nature of Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse among Young Adults in Sub-Saharan Africa
Chapter 6 The Face of Technology-Facilitated Aggression in New Zealand: Exploring Adult Aggressors' Behaviors
Chapter 7 The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis: Technological Dimensions
Chapter 8 Attending to Difference in Indigenous People's Experiences of Cyberbullying: Toward a Research Agenda
Section 2 Text-Based Harms
Chapter 9 Introduction
Chapter 10 “Feminism is Eating Itself”: Women's Experiences and Perceptions of Lateral Violence Online
Chapter 11 Claiming Victimhood: Victims of the “Transgender Agenda”
Chapter 12 Doxxing: A Scoping Review and Typology
Chapter 13 Creating the Other in Online Interaction: Othering Online Discourse Theory
Chapter 14 Text-Based (Sexual) Abuse and Online Violence Against Women: Toward Law Reform?
Section 3 Image-Based Harms
Chapter 15 Introduction
Chapter 16 Violence Trending: How Socially Transmitted Content of Police Misconduct Impacts Reactions toward Police Among American Youth
Chapter 17 Just Fantasy? Online Pornography's Contribution to Experiences of Harm
Chapter 18 Intimate Image Dissemination and Consent in a Digital Age: Perspectives from the Front Line
Section 4 Dating Applications
Chapter 19 Introduction
Chapter 20 Understanding Experiences of Sexual Harms Facilitated through Dating and Hook Up Apps among Women and Girls
Chapter 21 “That's Straight-Up Rape Culture”: Manifestations of Rape Culture on Grindr
Chapter 22 Navigating Privacy on Gay-Oriented Mobile Dating Applications
Section 5 Intimate Partner Violence and Digital Coercive Control
Chapter 23 Introduction
Chapter 24 Digital Coercive Control and Spatiality: Rural, Regional, and Remote Women's Experience
Chapter 25 Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women in Singapore: Key Considerations
Chapter 26 Technology as Both a Facilitator of and Response to Youth Intimate Partner Violence: Perspectives from Advocates in the Global-South
Chapter 27 Technology-Facilitated Domestic Abuse and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Women in Victoria, Australia
Section 6 Legal Responses
Chapter 28 Introduction
Chapter 29 Human Rights, Privacy Rights, and Technology-Facilitated Violence
Chapter 30 Combating Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls: An Overview of the Legislative and Policy Reforms in the Arab Region
Chapter 31 Image-Based Sexual Abuse: A Comparative Analysis of Criminal Law Approaches in Scotland and Malawi
Chapter 32 Revenge Pornography and Rape Culture in Canada's Nonconsensual Distribution Case Law
Chapter 33 Reasonable Expectations of Privacy in an Era of Drones and Deepfakes: Expanding the Supreme Court of Canada's Decision in R v Jarvis
Chapter 34 Doxing and the Challenge to Legal Regulation: When Personal Data Become a Weapon
Chapter 35 The Potential of Centralized and Statutorily Empowered Bodies to Advance a Survivor-Centered Approach to Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women
Section 7 Responses Beyond Law
Chapter 36 Introduction
Chapter 37 Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women and Girls in Public and Private Spheres: Moving from Enemy to Ally
Chapter 38 As Technology Evolves, so Does Domestic Violence: Modern-Day Tech Abuse and Possible Solutions
Chapter 39 Threat Modeling Intimate Partner Violence: Tech Abuse as a Cybersecurity Challenge in the Internet of Things
Chapter 40 Justice on the Digitized Field: Analyzing Online Responses to Technology-Facilitated Informal Justice through Social Network Analysis
Chapter 41 Bystander Apathy and Intervention in the Era of Social Media
Chapter 42 “I Need You All to Understand How Pervasive This Issue Is”: User Efforts to Regulate Child Sexual Offending on Social Media
Chapter 43 Governing Image-Based Sexual Abuse: Digital Platform Policies, Tools, and Practices
Chapter 44 Calling All Stakeholders: An Intersectoral Dialogue about Collaborating to End Tech-Facilitated Violence and Abuse
Chapter 45 Pandemics and Systemic Discrimination: Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse in an Era of COVID-19 and Antiracist Protest