Media Release: Collective Shout successfully defends movement against Sexpo legal threat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 24 APRIL 2018

The Federal Court in Brisbane today dismissed an application brought against Collective Shout by Sexpo Limited, over a campaign by Collective Shout calling for the removal of porn ads from the sides of buses on which children travelled to school.

In dismissing the application and ordering Sexpo to pay Collective Shout’s costs, Justice Reeves found that Sexpo had failed to establish that it held a reasonable belief that it had suffered any loss or damage, including any harm to its commercial reputation as a consequence of Collective Shout’s alleged representations.

In August 2017, Sexpo filed an application for preliminary discovery under rule 7.23 of the Federal Court Rules, seeking access to extensive financial information about Collective Shout, including bank statements, employment contracts and legal arrangements with staff and directors.

Sexpo argued over two days of hearing on 7 December 2017 and 9 February 2018 that these documents would assist Sexpo to decide whether to pursue a claim against Collective Shout for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct under s.18 of the Australian Consumer Law.

Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist defended the movement’s right to speak up to protect children from sexism, objectification and the pornography industry.

“We have been calling out Sexpo for its advertising on buses and billboards across Australia for a number of years. The ads at the centre of this dispute contained a prominent reference to Sexpo’s commercial partner, which is a website broadcasting live porn shows.”

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A complaint lodged with the Advertising Standards Board about similar ads in 2015 was rejected.

“We were very disappointed that the ASB would allow Sexpo to continue to advertise an online provider of hard core pornography on the sides of public buses. This case highlights the outdated nature of Australia’s advertising standards compared to best practice models internationally, such as France which has implemented much stricter standards against sexism in ads. We see the need for a new regulatory model for advertising in Australia – one that is attuned to the need to protect children from sexualisation and pornography and which is not protecting the interests of the sex industry”, Ms Tankard Reist said.

“It is remarkable that, given regulatory rules around big tobacco, alcohol and other types of advertising, Sexpo appears to be able to get away with advertising porn in this manner. It needs to be addressed.”

In response to articles published by Collective Shout calling attention to this issue, Sexpo through its lawyers threatened legal proceedings last year and demanded that Collective Shout cease its campaign and issue an apology. Sexpo also targeted a prominent individual campaigner who sought to raise awareness about the issue on social media.      

Collective Shout is delighted that its vigorous defence of Sexpo’s application has been vindicated and it will continue to advocate for the protection of children, including by drawing attention to the conduct of Sexpo.

Simon Muys, a partner at Gilbert + Tobin, who is acting for Collective Shout, said:

“Collective Shout offers a strong and important voice on these issues and we are pleased to act for them in responding to the Sexpo allegations.  

We were disappointed to see legal processes and allegations of this kind used to try to prevent a charity, like Collective Shout, from engaging in public advocacy and debate. This is especially so where an NGO is advocating to protect children and young women from sexualisation and porn in the mainstream media and advertising.”

Read the full judgment here.

Media Contact:

Coralie Alison - Director, Collective Shout.
coralie@collectiveshout.org


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