Proposed Catfishing Legal guidelines in NSW

Fishing isn’t illegal in NSW, but it could be soon. Find out how laws could potentially regulate cat fishing here.

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Catfishing is when someone uses a fake identity (using other people’s photos) to speak to someone through online messaging platforms. The person with the fake profile often fishes with the intention of deceiving or taking advantage of the victim. Cat fishing is becoming more common as social media makes it easier to meet new people, people of all ages and from all over the world. This can be especially dangerous for vulnerable populations such as children who can become easy targets for catfish.

Current legislation in NSW

At the moment there are some laws that can cover certain catfish scenarios. For example, Section 13 of the Crimes Personal and Domestic Violence Act (NSW) addresses catfishing situations where stalking or intimidation occurs. Additionally, Section 192E of the Crimes Act may cover catfishing situations in which the catfish is taking advantage of the victim for money or property. These situations are classified as fraud under the Crimes Act. Finally, the Criminal Code also contains a section that specifically protects minors from online predators who try to exploit children for sexual acts.

However, there are no specific laws that criminalize the act of cat fishing. Such a law was called for because many catfish falls that are not covered by the above two laws are not regulated. Catfish victims have spoken about the emotional and psychological trauma that catfish have caused after months or years of mental manipulation.

Renae Marsden was one of those victims. Marsden was fished by her ex-girlfriend and took her own life after discovering she had been fished. Despite the psychological and psychological harm that the catfish had inflicted on Marsden, there was no crime under which the catfish could be prosecuted.

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Discussion of the proposed catfish-specific legislation

Magistrate Truscott in Renae Marsden’s case acknowledged that there was a loophole in state legislation. The laws only affected cat fishing if it was a threat, intimidation, or financial gain.

Magistrate Truscott encouraged the NSW Department for Communities and Justice to include cat fishing in their research. This study examined possible coercive control laws that can be used in domestic violence cases. She explained that the department’s research on non-physical forms of violence could also be used to address cat-fishing cases. This is because they have similar traits when trying to manipulate someone.

Even if cat fishing becomes a crime in NSW, identifying and tracking down the catfish is an extremely difficult task.

Protection from catfish

The eSafety commissioner has tips here on how to identify a catfish situation. Some tips are:

  • Inverted image looking for their photos
  • If they know a lot of personal information about you, it could be a red flag
  • When they are asking for a lot of personal information or want to borrow money

Here you can report any kind of online abuse such as catfishing, cyberbullying, image-based abuse, etc. to the eSafety Commissioner.

Summary

There are currently no laws in NSW that make cat fishing itself a criminal offense. However, catfish can still be prosecuted for threats, intimidation or fraud. For advice or more information on cat fishing laws, you can reach out to an attorney who can provide tailored assistance in answering your specific situation or question.

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