Revenge Porn Bill Will Seek to Shrivel Booming Internet Fad

The war against “revenge porn” is about to enter Congress.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., is preparing to introduce legislation to criminalize the non-consensual online dissemination of lewd content by jilted lovers and hackers, her office confirms to U.S. News.

Speier intends to introduce the revenge porn bill sometime next month. The legislation is still being drafted and several significant details have yet to be resolved – such as the maximum punishment for offenders and possible rules for the removal of non-consensual content.

Three states currently make sharing revenge in porn a crime, including California, where the operator of a revenge porn website was charged in December with 31 felony counts for allegedly attempting to harass and extort victims.

Most websites hosting revenge porn, however, cannot be forced to remove the content because Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act grants Internet companies legal immunity if third-party content doesn’t violate federal copyright or criminal law.

University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, an advocate for victims of revenge porn and a board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, is helping to draft the legislation.

If disseminating “revenge porn” becomes a federal crime, websites “wouldn’t be able to raise the special Section 230 defense that intermediaries are sometimes able to raise with regard to other unlawful activity,” Franks tells U.S. News.

Search engines and website that host third-party content might be required to remove or block access to revenge porn if its distribution becomes a federal crime, as is already done with child pornography and copyright violations.

Speier’s office expects there to be significant support among lawmakers and is in talks with other members.

Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told U.S. News in November he’s concerned about the possible effects of a federal revenge porn law.

“Frequently, almost inevitably, statutes that try to do this type of thing overreach,” he said. “The concern is that they’re going to shrink the universe of speech that’s available online.”

Zimmerman – who would support expanding civil liability for posters – said criminal law would be a “dangerous” way to address the problem because Internet companies would likely respond by reflexively removing content any time there’s a complaint.

An overwhelming majority of states have no criminal penalties for distributors of revenge porn. A New York judge, for example, tossed the state’s first known revenge porn case in February after finding the accused – who posted to Twitter nude photos of a woman he dated – hadn’t violated the existing laws he was charged with breaking.

Federal ‘Revenge Porn’ Bill Will Seek to Shrivel Booming Internet Fad – U.S. News & World Report
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/03/26/federal-revenge-porn-bill-will-seek-to-shrivel-booming-internet-fad
revenge porn – Google News

Steven Nelson is a reporter at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at snelson@usnews.com.