Fighting back against ‘revenge porn’

Many of their stories start the same.

She Googles her own name. A Web site pops up, claiming to have nude photos or videos of her posted online for all to see. And, just out of curiosity, she clicks on it.

That’s when she realizes the ex she broke up with forever ago, uploaded the private pictures she once intended for only him. And there’s nothing she can do about it.

Often, her name, address and links to social media profiles are provided as well. And, in some cases, sites created for this reason will charge her a fee to remove it.

It happens to men, too.

This kind of cyber extortion or, at the very least, cyber humiliation, called “revenge porn” has grabbed the attention of lawmakers increasingly seeking to criminalize it.

In the past, operators of revenge porn sites have managed to lay low, since they are usually protected under a law that shields content providers from liability for things their users do and write, Forbes reported. But lawmakers are taking notice. Last week, Colorado joined a handful of other states when its House Judiciary Committee passed a bill, which, if enacted, would impose a $10,000 fine on anyone convicted of posting such things online with the intent to cause “serious emotional distress,” according to Reuters.

Revenge porn gained worldwide attention this year through Hunter Moore, the 20-something who earned the reputation as “the most hated man on the Internet” by allegedly running IsAnyoneUp – a site that hosted this kind of vindictive pornography. He was slapped with a federal indictment alleging he paid someone to hack into victims’ emails and steal their personal images to post on the site. He made bail in January. But Moore isn’t the only alleged revenge porn operator who has found himself in a legal battle.

Victims of revenge porn have come forward, giving similar sites such as MyEx and the now-defunct Texxxan their share of trouble. Many have created blogs and online support groups. And, this year alone, bills have been introduced or are pending in more than two dozen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legislation has been enacted in Idaho, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. And Georgia and Maryland are waiting only on governors’ signatures.

The issue is causing some debate, with some arguing that criminalization infringes First Amendment free speech rights.

That’s why some experts explain it’s crucial to craft narrow statutes that punish only those who knowingly and intentionally invade someone else’s privacy, Forbes reported.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at University of California-Los Angeles, argues on his Washington Post-hosted blog the revenge porn law does not violate the First Amendment:

I do think that a suitably clear and narrow statute banning nonconsensual posting of nude pictures of another, in a context where there’s good reason to think that the subject did not consent to publication of such pictures, would likely be upheld by the courts. … I think courts can rightly conclude that as a categorical matter such nude pictures indeed lack First Amendment value.

Even so, a business this lucrative isn’t likely to go belly-up, according to Gordon Fletcher of the Centre for Digital Business at the U.K.’s University of Salford. Writing in the forum, The Conversation, he states:

What is easily lost in these calls for legislation is how technology has placed the tools and means to produce pornography in anyone’s hands. Coupled with the constant invitation to “participate” there is a subtle but constant pressure to produce content of regardless of its merits.

The rise of revenge porn as the action of disgruntled ex-partners and as a commercial category raises much wider questions about our collective willingness to participate in – for want of a better word – risqué activities in front of a recording device. This raises the question, to what extent can limited consent continue to have meaning in the presence of a camera? And in what way should dubious “private” images of ourselves be held against us in ten years time?

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Next Story
Nick Kirkpatrick · April 28