Revenge porn prevalance indicates legislative failures

An article about the website Anon-IB recently garnered national attention when dozens of male Marines posted nude photographs of their female colleagues. Anon-IB—short for Anonymous Image Board—is one of many “revenge porn” websites that encourage users to post explicit photos of their exes, without the exes’ consent.

Anon-IB receives 50,000 individual visitors each day and its page views can average 170,000, according to the New York Post. The site’s categories include “drunk/passed out,” “peeping toms” and “up-the-skirt” photos. Some material depicts molestation and rape, with many of the girls pictured below the age of 18. Users can post teenage girls’ pictures, as long as the tag does not contain their age, according to the New York Post.

Revenge porn epitomizes the failure of legislators and policymaking to catch up with the rapid progression of technology. Georgia resident Brandon Lee Gary, for example, had been convicted for taking up-the-skirt photos of women while they shopped. A judge threw out the ruling, however, after it was discovered how far behind the times Georgia’s invasion of privacy laws were, according CBS News. The law did not cover actions in public spaces, like stores.

Aware of this loophole, some states have created voyeurism statutes that make such behavior illegal. As of this year, legislation to prevent revenge porn has passed in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to FindLaw.

California Rep. Jackie Speier hopes to protect all 50 states with a bill that would be enforced at a federal level. Speier’s Intimate Privacy Protection Act of 2016 specifically targets revenge porn and explicit images taken without consent.

The bill would amend Chapter 88 of Title XVIII, which defines and prohibits recorded voyeurism. Created back in 2004, this title prohibits the filming or documenting of “a private area of the individual,” according to section 1801.

The addition of the Intimate Privacy Protection Act would specifically address distribution of those images and the lack of consent. It is a way that legislation could begin catching up to the ever-dwindling digital privacy of citizens in the modern era. The bill, however, is still being debated by the House of Representatives.

Numerous grassroots movements have recently started up in the hopes of shutting down revenge porn sites and raising awareness. Activist Alex Edwards, for instance, began a petition on Change.org that has gained over 9,000 supporters since it was started in 2012. Edwards is calling on the FBI to begin an investigation that combats Anon-IB and its distribution of child pornography.

Until legislation passes, these grassroots efforts appear to be the best recourse against revenge porn that the U.S. has.u