Using social media

Social media can be used for socialising, communicating and for business. But you may not have thought about some of the problems it can cause for you. 

Depending on what is sent, you might be the victim of cyber bullying. Or you might be cyber bullying someone else. Sexting and cyber bullying can both be crimes.

Find out:

  • what you should think about before you post or send information or photos online
  • about the possible consequences from misusing social media, and
  • what you can do if you are the victim of image-based abuse.

Things to think about before you post online

Think carefully about what could happen if you take or send pictures of your friends on your mobile phone, especially if they are not fully dressed. You could be charged by police for committing a criminal offence, even if the people in the photo knew what you were doing. The images may last forever online and damage people's job prospects or relationships.

Once it is out there, it can be in many places you didn't even think about. Remember, other people can copy what you post and send it to people you don't know, who could then send it out to even more people. 

Information, videos and photos you send to your friends by social media, text or email could be sent on to other people without your knowledge or permission. Australian privacy laws that may protect your privacy in relation to governments and companies don't apply to your friends.

Some tweets and blogs have led to legal action for defamation

Can I get into trouble with the police for sexting or what I post on social media?

If you post something that is threatening or abusive to a person or group, it may be a criminal offence. In some cases it may be criminal defamation. It may also be bullying.  

Sexting is sending nude, sexual or indecent photos (or 'selfies') using a computer, mobile phone or other mobile device. Sexting may be a criminal offence. If the photo, video or text is about someone under the age of 18 (including yourself), it is possible it could be seen as child pornography. If you create child pornography, send it to someone or have it on your mobile phone or computer, you could be breaking the law and face being sent to prison.

If you are charged and convicted of an offence involving a child, you become a 'reportable offender' offender and will be placed on the sex offender register. 

You should be careful about the sharing of sexually explicit material through your phone or the internet even with a consenting adult.     

What if someone takes or shares a sexy picture of me without my permission?

If someone takes sexually explicit pictures of you without your consent, it may be a criminal offence. The offence will be seen as more serious if you are under the age of 18 (whether or not you gave permission). If you think a sexting offence may have has been committed, contact your local police. 

You may have agreed to have the photos taken, or even willingly shared them with another person (such as your partner). But that does not mean you wanted them shared or shown to other people without your permission. If someone has distributed sexy pictures of you without your consent, this may be an example of image-based abuse.

Reviewed: 11 June 2018


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.