Revenge porn is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Some federal lawmakers agree, and they now seek to push legislation aimed at criminalizing revenge porn.
So, what exactly is revenge porn? It often goes something like this:
A man and woman are in a committed, consensual relationship. As part of that relationship, they engage in sexual activity, and they agree, for their own enjoyment purposes, to take photos and videos of their activities. Later, the relationship, whether husband and wife, fiancees, or boyfriend and girlfriend, ends. But the sexually explicit photos and videos still exist. The man (it usually is the man) then posts the photos and videos on the internet to get back at the woman, to humiliate the woman, or to make demands on her. And there are websites that seek such photos and videos — the women who are the victims often must pay a fee to the sites to have the photos and videos taken down.
As revenge porn unfortunately has become more prevalent, there have been efforts made at the state level to criminalize such conduct, and now some lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced previously-stalled legislation that would make it a federal crime to share sexually explicit photos and videos on the internet without the consent of the consent of the subjects, according to Reuters. The legislation is referred to as the Intimate Privacy Protection Act.
Jackie Speier (D-CA), the lead author of the legislation, is quoted as saying that “these acts of bullying [revenge porn] have ruined careers, families and even led to suicide.”
The Intimate Privacy Protection Act would authorize prison terms of up to five years and fines for the posting online of sexually explicit photos or videos with “reckless disregard” for the consent of the subjects. Thus, actual intent is not even required, and the penalties are severe. This federal legislation, if it becomes law, would cover revenge porn across the United States; whereas, presently more than 30 states have enacted their own laws.
The statute does contain a few exceptions. One such exception has to do with a person posing in the nude voluntarily in a commercial or public setting, which seems to make sense. Another exception has to do with material that is in the “public interest” — but one would like to think that sexually explicit photos or videos taken in private and not intended for sharing should not be in the public interest.
Previous efforts to pass this type of federal legislation were delayed based on concerns by Internet Service Providers that they somehow could face liability for content posted by third-parties on their sites. They likely would have had immunity in this context under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That aside, the proposed Intimate Privacy Protection Act exempts Internet Service Providers in this area to the extent that they do not promote or actually solicit revenge porn. And many Internet Service Providers have updated their terms of service explicitly to prohibit revenge porn on their sites.
Now that this anti-revenge porn legislation is on the move in Congress, let’s stay tuned to follow its progress and whether it actually becomes law.