I will preface this with the fact that I'm taking a slightly different approach and being very open about my experience in the hope that it can help others.
My name is Kimberly Chiles and I have been asked to speak to Bill C-13, as a victim and a survivor of what is commonly referred to as “revenge porn”.
On the last Friday of October 2013, I began to get an absurd amount of "friend" requests on Facebook from men all over the world. Facebook had just changed its privacy settings and I thought I might have missed something, so I frantically set about trying to rearrange those. I was still getting the same amount of requests by Sunday evening, so I made a public post on Facebook, asking my friends if I had missed something. Somebody sent me a private message to let me know that this was not a coincidence and sent me a link to a website called MyEx.com, and there I was. My images were shared with the world at the click of a button. He found them because a popular online celebrity magazine had this website, MyEx.com, in their favourite links.
To make matters even worse, someone had commented three comments down—visible to anyone—adding a direct link to my Facebook profile, so anyone that visited this site then proceeded to visit Facebook.
The anguish that was instantly triggered was like nothing l'd experienced to date. Panic set in, and I began to shake and sob. My mind raced, realizing quickly how swiftly these images could and would be seen. Family, colleagues, students, potential clients, friends, and strangers alike were privy to my personal...my privacy, my body. I was violated, I was in shock.
How could someone be so malicious? I called my current boyfriend, and he immediately took action. He spent the next hours determining ways to get these images taken down. We Googled, we looked for support, and on MyEx.com, there is the option to pay $500 and have it removed by removenames.com. They are the same people. This is extortion. My images and personal information was posted on a heinous site and they know exactly what people do when they find these images of themselves: they panic, and they will do anything to get them removed.
We were quick to find out about a group called DMCA Defender—that's digital millennium copyright—and their fantastic track record and their reputation via endrevengeporn.com. My boyfriend hired them that same evening and we began working on my case that evening. They started contacting the web hosts, the site itself, and the search engines, to have my images removed.
This is not an expeditious process and with every second that passed, the panic and mortification of this experience grew. The unwanted attention from around the globe continued as men filled my Facebook “other” inbox with their opinions about me or my profile. They hit on me, made comments about my body, and about myself. I even received offers to connect or hook-up because they would be in town. Some took the route of warning me and trying to strike up a conversation, because apparently some people actually believed what was written about me was true. The shame of this scenario continued.
This was actually the pinnacle of a year and a half of ongoing issues. I immediately knew who was to blame. I split on amicable terms with the man these images were sent to. He and his ex-wife were in a battling, drama-filled relationship. They had a young daughter. I gave him an out and he took it. I had not spoken to him since them.
At one point in our relationship, which was brief—only four months long—he had mentioned that she may have my name; he caught her with his phone. I said that I was not concerned, that we would deal with whatever, never thinking that this would take place. These images had not been shared at that time.
She had initially contacted me through my business website a year and a half prior, and made it clear that she was spiteful. Her messages were crass and mean-spirited and placed the blame on me for her broken marriage. He had already left her and moved out long before l'd met him. However, I did not respond, knowing that any kind of response would show her that she had my attention. She continued to contact me through various forms of social media, directly and indirectly, sometimes pretending to be her, sometimes pretending to be him, signing crude, derogatory, hateful messages. I never responded to her cyberbullying and harassment.
I am a business owner. I am self-employed, and I also teach at the University of Alberta. I have an active online profile and do much of my networking by online means. She had crossed a line and I was stricken by fear of who might see it, shame for the people who did and what they might believe or the conclusions they might make about me. I was horrified at the seemingly bottomless pit of who this may end up in the hands of. It was just the worst feeling, and it was paralyzing.
The next morning I called the Edmonton Police Service. The officer who answered the phone listened to most of my story and then cut me short to let me know there was nothing he could do, that this was not a crime. I had no proof, and he guessed I shouldn't have put my pictures on Facebook, to which I quickly responded that was not what I had told him at all. I asked him if he had a daughter and said that he might change his tune if his daughter had come to him and said this is what was happening. I then told him I expected him to send an officer to my house to take a statement from me, and by day's end that did happen. We chatted at length about what had taken place and I had him leave the statement forms with me. I filled out a three-page statement and was able to attach seven pages of evidence from her of her online harassment.
In the meantime, the constant barrage of unwanted attention continued. I feared going out in public, responding to LinkedIn, Facebook, or emails, afraid that everyone had seen my pictures. It made me paranoid and ashamed. I started feeling like this would never go away and that the abyss of the World Wide Web would devour my images and information, making them forever available to anyone that Googled my name.
DMCA Defender continued their efforts, regularly checking in with me to update. They were supportive and reassuring and never once minimized what I was going through. They work until the images are down and unsearchable. Meanwhile, I had to continuously follow up with the police myself, and while the constable who was looking after my case seemed relatively supportive, he made it clear that it would be difficult to find recourse for this because, again, it was not technically a crime. Over and over again my brain went back to the idea that this was debilitating to me, a 38-year-old woman, confident and successful, and that 14-year-old me would not have been able to cope. I would have ended my life then. I say that without hesitation.
That awareness and empathy kept me fighting. I knew that I would continue to research and to find resources. I would connect with other survivors and advocates in the U.S. and Canada. I followed up regularly with the EPS to see if they had contacted the accused. I wanted to sue. I wanted to get a lawyer. I wanted justice. I wanted to nail her to the wall for doing this to me, to my reputation, and to my psyche. My bank account, however, was not in a position to do that.
I had my partner and best friend searching online for my name every day, because I was physically ill and could not do so myself, to see if anything had changed. I trusted no one outside my circle, fearing that everyone had ulterior motives. I am still burdened by this today, wondering if every attempted new contact has somehow seen something that they shouldn't have. It's been an awful experience. I found it frustrating that I could pick out each attack and label it under other things, like bullying, harassment, assault, copyright infringement, non-consensual sharing of personal information. But there wasn't one thing in place that I, as a victim, could refer to, or the authorities could refer to, in order to protect me and other victims and survivors, that made this a criminal act, that gave me some recourse.
Over a month went by and my images now appeared in a basic Google search, not just on the MyEx site. DMCA confirmed underage girls were also now on this site and that they were working with the FBI to have the host and the site shut down. Meanwhile, in my case, they had successfully contacted the accused, and they had denied any involvement. I had to keep fighting. I had lots of proof and I knew there had to be a way. I continued steady contact with everyone involved and relied on my network to keep me going. I was experiencing heightened anxiety and was quick to cry. I lost weeks worth of work. My focus was terrible. My time was spent researching this topic and related cases. This was the hardest thing l've been up against. Finally, on December 6 of this last year I was advised that the DMCA Defender was successful in having my images and connected information removed.
These explicit images, my personal information, my Facebook page, were all posted without my consent. Those images were shared with the expectation of privacy. My trust and privacy were violated. The ownership of those images is not transferable. I share my story in relation to Bill C-13.
This bill is being labeled the revenge porn bill. I liken my experience to sexual assault, to rape, to harassment, but not to pornography. Internet crime existing in that grey area that it does provides no recourse for the victims of these experiences. My own judgment and decision matrix should not be called into question when I call the authorities and police for help. The lack of resources within the municipal force definitely played into their inability to delve into this, but so did their awareness and education on Internet crime.
I was advised that the RCMP have a small task force dealing with Internet crime, but what step does a person take to move this from what is viewed as a civil hearsay matter at a municipal level up to a federal level? The lack of sensitivity and abrupt condescension and callousness I experienced was unacceptable, as were the excuses and dismissals.
As I understand, the purpose of a search warrant is to allow investigators to locate, preserve, and examine evidence relevant to criminal liability. A search warrant can be used not only for collecting evidence supporting a criminal charge but also as an investigative tool for alleged criminal activity. A search warrant makes valid an act that would otherwise be considered trespass. The charter requires that for all warrants police must provide reasonable and probable grounds established upon oath to believe that an offence has been committed and that there is evidence to be found at the place of the search. Those requirements are set out as a minimum standard, consistent with section 8 of the charter for authorizing search and seizure.
Ensuring that there is specific legislation and criminal liability in these scenarios of harassment, assault, and attacks would set precedent and streamline the course of action that authorities have to investigate allegations or instances. I think it is important to point out that non-consensual gathering and/or sharing of personal data essentially make victims of us all, leaving us all vulnerable to privacy violation, unjust information sharing, judgment, and misconceptions. It makes sense to continue fighting for victims' rights and protect these rights within their own legislation, and to continue to consider the benefits of due diligence and process within our charter.
As it stands, it requires that for all warrants police must provide, reasonable and probable grounds, established upon oath, to believe that an offence has been committed and that there is evidence to be found at the place of the search. These requirements set out the minimum standard, consistent with section 8 of the charter, for authorizing search and seizure. As well, the standard of “reasonable grounds to believe” is greater than mere suspicion but less than on a balance of probabilities when the totality of the circumstances are considered.
If there is a reason to believe that a crime has taken place, the police and authorities already have the ability to obtain any data that they need.
Earlier this year I was advised that the accused was being served with a production order for two years based on evidence I'd provided. Someone in the EPS had enough IT experience to dig a little deeper and continue gathering damning evidence against her and him. At this time, I'm waiting for an update, but was unable to reach the constable prior to meeting with you today. I will continue to use my experience to create and document the process, persons, and organizations that are there to help. With any luck, those of us speaking to this bill will help dissuade you from moving forward with what could be seen as an omnibus bill and persuade you to consider the critical issues of revenge porn and search and seizure separately, so that the proper due diligence for Canadians is taken.
Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to share my story in the hopes of helping others.