What is Cyber-flashing
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Jun 01, 2021
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Sophia Clark

What is Cyber-flashing?

In today’s world, there is an ease of growing file sharing. Back in the day sharing files like documents, photos or videos was a mammoth of a task. We can communicate and share files through means of storage devices, social media, messaging applications, and even file sharing applications.

In mobile phones, there is a trend of growth of file sharing applications. There are also built-in applications on mobile phones file sharing like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirDrop (in iPhones). All of these file sharing applications make it incredibly easy to share.

But what happens when we get things that we did not want to receive? One such instance occurred in London in the year 2015 to an unsuspecting woman.

On 13th April of 2015, while commuting on a train in South London, Lorraine Crighton-Smith faced a violating experience. She was confronted with a strange request on her iPhone. It was a pop-up request from an AirDrop. This AirDrop carried an unsolicited sexual image of a “penis”.

Lorraine Crighton-Smith reported to the British Transport Police that the request came two times on her iPhone. She declined the image share request both times. She reported that she had turned on the AirDrop feature and forgotten to turn it off.

She said she felt quite shocked when she was confronted with the AirDrop of the man’s genitals. She also said that she felt quite insecure knowing that the perpetrator was closeby. The AirDrop feature lets people with Apple phones share files when they are 30 feet or closer.

This was the first recorded case of cyber-flashing. So what consists of cyber-flashing? What does it incorporate? And how can we prevent getting cyber-flashed? All of this info is available so keep reading on!

Cyber-flashing

Cyber-flashing is an intentional flash act of sending unsolicited sexual images to an unsuspecting individual. It is sent over the internet through Wi-Fi, messaging applications, online platforms, Bluetooth, or other file sharing applications. Cyber-flashing usually includes sexual images or images of someone’s genitals. It may also include pornography.

Cyber flashing

It is a form of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in many countries. The victim of cyber-flashing is usually women or girls. These unsolicited sexual images are sent without the explicit consent of the receiver. They do not want to engage with the image.

Cyber-flashing may include video or pictures of someone’s genitalia or pornography. They generate a feeling of repulsiveness in the receiver. The receiver also feels violated by the picture.

Most of the cases of cyber-flashing are unreported. The public is unaware that sending unsolicited pictures is a form of sexual harassment. They also do not know that cyber-flashing when reported is punishable by the law in many countries.

Cyber-flashing is a form of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. It does not take the consent of the receiver into consideration. It violates the safe space of the receiver. These kinds of activities Hence it has to be treated as a form of sexual abuse.

From the first case of cyber-flashing in 2015, there has been a 44% increase in reported cyber-flashing to the British Transport Police. It seems like cyber-flashing is a new form of sex crime that is on the high rise.

With cyber-crimes increasing, countries are also trying to keep up with enforcing legal actions against these crimes. Other cybersex crimes such as revenge porn, Deepfake pornography and upskirting have also been subjected to legal actions.

In countries like Singapore and Australia, the distribution of intimate images without the consent of both parties is punishable by law. Similarly, in places like Scotland and Texas, USA, the distribution of such unsolicited sexual images or videos is prohibited. Anyone involved in sending such images without the expressed consent of the receiver is considered a sexual abuser.

Who is cyber-flashing?

Anyone with a mobile or other digital device can be cyber flashing. The intent behind cyber-flashing is often malintent. They either do this to assert dominance for other reasons that they claim it to be a joke. Whether it is a joke or not, cyber flashing is a grave crime in many countries. It is considered as bad as sexual harassment.

So who can be cyber-flashing to you?

It can be someone in your close proximity if you are sending such unsolicited pictures from the iPhone AirDrop feature. It has to be someone from close proximity because the iPhone does not allow anyone further from 30 feet to use this feature. The same goes for mobile phone features like Bluetooth.

It is a scary prospect that a sexual predator can be anywhere near you. It can also be scary because you will not be able to identify them wherever you are.

A cyber-flasher can also be someone you know. It can be someone on your friend list who is sending it through an online platform. It can be a stranger that you accepted a Facebook request from. It can also be someone who has your contact information. It can be someone you know or a complete stranger.

Cyber-flashing can be done by anyone. It is irrespective of their age, race or gender. A cyber-flasher can be a man, woman or a child. They can be someone you know or don’t know. Irrespective of this cyber-flashing is a heinous act and is regarded as a criminal act in some countries.

Ways someone can cyber-flash

Cyberflashing can occur from any digital or online medium.

Ways someone can cyber-flash

Some of the ways someone can cyber-flash you are as follows:

1.AirDrop

AirDrop is a feature present in Apple devices. It is available in devices like iPhone, iPad and Mac devices. This application allows you to share files wirelessly to other similar devices. It asks the permission of the receiver by showing the file about to be transferred. The distance between the sender and the receiver has to be less than 30 feet to use this function.

The airDrop was the first reported method of cyber-flashing. The case took place in South London. As the receiver and sender do not need each other’s contact info or even know each other, this method has been infamous for receiving unsolicited sexual images.

2.Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a standard file-sharing software for devices. For Bluetooth to work, devices or mobile devices have to be paired together with each other. This can be done by asking for permission to pair with the other device.

Cyberflashing has also been said to happen through Bluetooth. They have to be around 100m near you to connect through Bluetooth. It is advisable to accept a connection from Bluetooth devices that you do not know.

3.Messaging application

Messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Viber, and Whatsapp have also been subjected as a medium for cyber-flashing. Perpetrators here either have to be on your contact or friend list. They can be someone who has your contact information.

4.Social media platforms

Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat have also been used for cyber-flashing. Snapchat especially is notorious for people receiving unsolicited images. Snapchat is an application where you can send images that can only be opened once, which disappears after some seconds. As a parent, the thing you should know about Snapchat is that it is also considered a sexting app.

This has caused perpetrators to feel like they can send sexual images without receiving any consequences.

How do I stop getting cyber-flashed?

Cyberflashing can occur through many mediums as you can see above. So how can you keep your loved ones and yourself safe?

Some of the recommendations to prevent getting cyber flashed are as follows:

  • Turn of your AirDrop on iPhone You can turn off your AirDrop feature on your iPhone by turning off both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Do not accept requests on social media from someone you don’t recognize
  • Do not provide permission to pair Bluetooth devices with unknown sources
  • Do not give your contact information to someone you do not know

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Sophia Clark

Sophia Clark is a writer from Sydney, kid-lit enthusiast, and mom of three kids who loves to writes about motherhood, parenting, and big feelings.