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More People Recognizing Copyright’s ‘Free Speech Problem’

 

For many years now, we’ve written about the fact that copyright law and the First Amendment are actually in quite a lot of conflict. After all, copyright is regularly used to stifle speech, and the First Amendment isn’t supposed to allow for the barring of speech. Over the years, legal experts have been increasingly starting to realize this. A few years back, we wrote about a paper wondering why copyright law doesn’t require a showing of harm, as should be required under the First Amendment. We’ve also pointed out that the more that you explore the fact that copyright and the First Amendment seem to be in conflict, the more you recognize how screwed up copyright law has been. I’m even aware of two whole books that both focus on this problem: Neil Netanel’s Copyright’s Paradox and David Lange & H. Jefferson Powell’s No Law (as in “Congress shall make no law…”).

But, for whatever reason, copyright system supporters always seem to wave off this issue as if it’s some kook theory, unwilling to confront the stark reality that copyright law has a serious First Amendment problem. And, no, the argument that “well the two coexisted for over 200 years” doesn’t cut it, because copyright was very, very different for the first 200 years of its existence in the US. Nor does the claim that copyright law is some sort of magic exception to the First Amendment because the Copyright Clause in the Constitution “came first.” That sounds good… until you remember that the First Amendment is called that because it’s an amendment and you remember that it’s the later part that should take precedent.

Hopefully, though, more people are beginning to recognize this issue. Law Professor John Tehranian (who has written a wonderful book on copyright excesses himself, called Infringement Nation) has an excellent article at legal trade publication The Recorder detailing the simple fact that Copyright Law Has a Free Speech Problem. It starts with a perfectly clear example of this, where two celebrities sought to punish a news tabloid for publishing proof that they had married by buying up the copyright to the photographic evidence of their wedding, and then suing for copyright infringement:


First, Monge and Reynoso purchased the copyright to the photographs. Then, they sued Maya for copyright infringement for its unauthorized use of the photographs—not to vindicate any real value in the copyrighted work but as a means of suppressing and punishing truthful speech. The gambit worked. Although a district court originally found Maya’s activities protected under the fair-use doctrine, the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit ultimately reversed and, in a 2012 published decision, deemed Maya liable for infringement.

We wrote about this case when it was ruled upon, noting the ridiculousness of the ruling at the time. As Tehranian notes, this is just one of many examples of copyright now being used to stifle First Amendment protected free expression:


By fetishizing property interests in copyright works at the expense of the public right of access to factual information, the decision effectively provided future plaintiffs with significant cover for disingenuous uses of copyright law to punish legitimate free speech on matters of public interest. And lest one think that the Maya decision only governs seemingly frivolous celebrity scandals, the precedent could just as easily be used to attach liability to the next publisher of the Pentagon Papers or other unpublished materials containing eminently newsworthy secrets.

And, no, he notes, this is not just one case. It’s happening all over.


In recent years, creationists have used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force the takedown of critical materials put online by evolutionists. Abortion-rights activists have brought infringement litigation to enjoin speech by pro-life forces (Northland Family Planning Clinic v. Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, 2012). Military personnel have ginned up copyright claims to suppress photographs documenting human-rights abuses (Four Navy SEALs v. Associated Press, 2005). And a prominent political talk show host has sued to prevent unauthorized reproductions of his broadcasts in order to suppress criticism of his hate-filled rants (Savage v. CAIR, 2009).

Tehranian — rightly — slams the federal judiciary for allowing this to happen, and basically ignoring the First Amendment issues, usually with the wave of a hand about how fair use solves all the problems. But, as he notes, that leaves many in the unfortunate (and nearly impossible) situation of not being able to rely on the First Amendment to protect free speech, but to try to force it directly into copyright law itself.

Because of this issue, he offers a potential solution, saying that we need a NY Times v. Sullivan for copyright. We have, of course, discussed that case many times in the past — most recently in the context of Donald Trump’s apparent ignorance of its existence or meaning. But it’s the seminal case that made defamation law “okay” under the First Amendment, by strongly favoring free expression (around public figures) by limiting defamation to cases of “actual malice.”


Courts have had no problem with imposing carefully circumscribed First Amendment limitations on tort liability in a variety of scenarios. In New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), the Supreme Court famously held that defamation claims brought by public officials should be subject to a critical First Amendment check: a showing that the defendant acted with actual malice by either intentionally disregarding the truth or acting with reckless indifference towards it. The Supreme Court has subsequently extended the holding of New York Times to all manner of defamation, false light (Time v. Hill, 1967), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Hustler v. Falwell, 1988) and invasion of privacy (Cox v. Cohn, 1975) cases involving public figures or matters of public concern.

These doctrinal innovations have a common goal: preventing the courts themselves from being used by private individuals to effectively suppress speech on matters of public concern. However, the courts have left a gaping exception: copyright law. The adoption of a New York Times v.

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Revenge porn website operator claims ‘free speech’ defense

revenge porn site operator in jail

Kevin Bollaert appeared on Sunday Night Photo: Sunday Night

Convicted revenge operator Kevin Bollaert has spoken out from behind bars, claiming he ran the website in defence of [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"].

The 29-year-old San Diego man was [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]. His website hosted more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos posted by ex-lovers, detailing victims’ names, addresses and social media profiles.

“It was mostly for freedom of speech, First Amendment,” Mr Bollaert told Channel Seven’s Sunday Night, explaining his motives for running the website.

In an extraordinary interview, Mr Bollaert also denied many of the images were shared without the victims’ consent.

“Some of the images are actually of people wanting themselves to be exposed, like exhibitionists,” he said. “Not every single photograph was unconsensual (sic).”

He did, however, admit the site’s purpose was to allow people to post nude photographs out of retribution. The compromising photos cost some victims their jobs, damaged their relationships and even led to one attempted suicide.

“Partially it was used for revenge porn. Some people posted pictures … of women that maybe didn’t want to be exposed on the website, sure,” Mr Bollaert said.

He also ran another website offering his victims the chance to have their photos removed – but for a price.

“I understand that a lot of people were hurt a lot by the website. Especially when I saw them testify in court,” he said.

“I thought it was more of, like, a joke, than damaging people’s lives to that extent, you know?”

Challenged to elaborate further, he offered: “Well, you see, like, on the media, all the other celebrities that get their sex tapes exposed and naked images leaked. It’s more, like, not a big deal. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, I guess.”

He said it took until he was “sitting in court and all the girls were testifying against me and crying” before he realised the full extent of his crimes, admitting it was “really harmful”.

Danish woman Emma Holten, who was a victim of Mr Bollaert’s website in 2011, published her own [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] late last year to take back consent and power.

“I could never have imagined that my rights could be taken away from me like that,” Ms Holten said on the program.

When asked what he had to say to Ms Holten, Mr Bollaert offered a brief apology.

“Emma, I’m sorry for making the website and I wish I never had done that. That’s pretty much it,” he said.

Mr Bollaert will be eligible for parole in 2025.

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Illinois Passes Revenge Porn Law

Illinois Passes Revenge Porn Law With Teeth: ‘Other States Should Copy’

Sixteen states have now made it a felony to publish so-called revenge porn — sexual images or video of someone without his or her consent. But Monday, [state] what many say is the country’s strongest anti-revenge-porn legislation yet. The law would take effect June 1.

New York lawyer Carrie Goldberg, who advocates for victims whose privacy has been invaded by technology, spoke with International Business Times Tuesday about what might surprise people about revenge-porn laws, why the Illinois law is a step forward, and what needs to be done to end what she says is a violation of the disproportionately female victims’ civil rights.

“I’m very pleased with the legislation,” Goldberg said. “It was a hard-earned battle that was in legislation for a long time. It’s a testament to [state] Rep. [a Highwood Democrat] [a Highwood Democrat] who was a real champion.”

What the new law does

The Illinois discounts motive for posting intimate images of someone without his or her consent. Revenge porn is classically thought of as something vengeful exes do to humiliate and punish their ex-partners after a breakup, but the Illinois law gives priority to the harm done to victims. It also makes it a crime to disseminate someone’s intimate selfie without his or her consent. An earlier [state], which has since been amended, was criticized by victims’ advocates for applying only to images taken by someone other than the victim. The images that would fall under the [state] also don’t have to be nudes — they can be images of sexual activity that don’t necessarily require the exposure of intimate parts, for example images of the victim performing a sex act.

The Illinois law doesn’t exempt those who publish intimate images if they received them secondhand. It takes into account a “reasonable person” standard and considers most people can determine if an image is private and the person depicted would not consent to have it disseminated. The price to pay for posting revenge porn is also significant under the Illinois law: It’s a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison, a possible $25,000 fine and restitution to victims for costs incurred.

Free speech versus ‘private speech’

And although the Illinois law accounts for free speech — for example, by not limiting the reproduction of “voluntary exposure in public or commercial settings” — Goldberg offered food for thought to those who fear anti-revenge-porn legislation will violate First Amendment rights.

“So much is said about how laws butt up against [state],” Goldberg said, “but if we lose the expectation of privacy in taking images meant only for someone we trust, then we lose another valuable form of speech: our private speech. There is nothing wrong with taking pictures of yourself that are meant only for another person you trust.”

Revenge porn is everywhere

Although there are dedicated revenge-porn sites — such as the now-defunct IsAnyoneUp.com, created by Hunter Moore, “the most hated man on the Internet,” revenge porn exists on the Internet in many other incarnations.

“There are so many people who do this,” Goldberg said. “We think of this in classic form as something an ex does to get revenge after a relationship goes sour, but that’s not always the scenario. Some people don’t even know the victim, as in hacking cases.”

Revenge porn is ubiquitous. Some amateur porn found on porn websites has been uploaded without a person’s consent. Revenge porn can be found on sub-Redditts or disseminated on social media. And some revenge porn has moved to “Tor” networks, or the underground Internet. Some people who see revenge porn are consumers — others, targeted loved ones, friends and colleagues, who are emailed or texted the porn or who see it on the victim’s Facebook page.

Federal law protects revenge-porn websites

What might surprise people about the Hunter Moore case is that he was indicted on federal charges for hacking, that is, paying someone to obtain the images he posted on his revenge-porn site — and not for publishing the images. That’s because publishing revenge porn isn’t a federal crime — something Moore knew when he was interviewed by [a Highwood Democrat] in 2012 and said under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA) he was protected from publishing intimate images of people without their consent.

He wasn’t wrong: The CDA states website owners aren’t liable for content submitted by other users.

“People often say, ‘Go after the website,'” Goldberg said, “but you can’t. State [state] doesn’t trump the CDA. There would have to be a new federal criminal law to make a real dent.” She and other victim advocates at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative are advocating for a federal criminal law, one of which has been drafted by University of Miami Law School Professor Mary Anne Franks. This law, which Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., is preparing to introduce, could co-exist with the CDA while holding operators of revenge porn sites criminally responsible.

But for now, revenge porn websites get pulled for hacking, publishing underage porn or trying to extort from victims. Criminal charges for revenge porn, however, are made “indirectly,” Goldberg said, through the violation of other criminal laws. The CDA also protects websites from being sued in civil court.

Protecting women ‘a [a Highwood Democrat] issue’

Although laws are far from perfect, Goldberg said she is heartened by the Illinois law. In her practice, she has had women from all walks of life — students, professionals, mothers with children — call her in suicidal states of despair after they became victims of revenge porn, and in half the cases, their images accompanied by identifying information — names, addresses, social media handles — which opened them up to harm from harassers and stalkers.

“Other states that haven’t passed or have sub-par laws should follow Illinois as a model,” she said. “Revenge porn is a form of domestic violence and the harms are significant and enduring. Women are disproportionately the victims and the harms are more intense — harassment and social judgment are horrendous, worse than for the male victim.

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Google Could Be Forced to Delete Links and Sensitive information

On May 13, the European Union’s highest court struck what appeared to be a significant blow for privacy, ruling that Google could be forced to delete links and other sensitive information about a user upon his or her request. In an age of rampant identity theft and data breaches, as well as more sinister, personal examples of private data going public such as revenge porn, this was a win worth celebrating. And it has many questioning if such a law could ever pass in the United States.

The short answer: No. “The publication of truthful fact, in a public forum, is robustly protected by the first amendment,” says Lee Rowland, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. From a strictly legal perspective, the EU’s “right to be forgotten” decision would be a clear violation of the constitutional right to free speech. “The first amendment protects speech that is a matter of public concern. It’s not only the right to speak about it but also to hear about it,” Rowland explains.

Consider, for example, the details of the case that triggered the EU’s unappealable decision.

A Spanish attorney failed to pay his taxes and had to sell off property in a public auction. A newspaper ran the details of said auction, as newspapers do. That information made its standard way to the Internet, and Google did what Google does, supplying linked search results to it.

There was nothing illegal about the newspaper’s publication of the auction results. And as personally embarrassing as those details may have been to the attorney, Rowland believes the public has a right to know that a practicing lawyer is a confirmed tax cheat. “Imagine if there were a plastic surgeon with a legal history of doing terrible things to people’s faces,” Rowland says. “Wouldn’t you as a consumer want to be able to find evidence of those lawsuits?”

Then again, most of the people championing the EU decision aren’t disgraced lawyers hoping to scrub their own sins from the Internet. The positive response has to do with shifting the balance of power online and issuing takedown orders to companies—like Google—that collect and disseminate our private information without permission. Blunt and unconstitutional as it might be, an equivalent U.S. ruling or law could also cripple revenge porn sites, forcing them to remove nude photos and images at an individual’s request, without discussion or delay.

It’s a solution that even dedicated anti-revenge porn groups don’t want. “It’s about the expectation of privacy,” says Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI).

The EU ruling punishes Google for indexing publicly available information, which could be of enormous value to the Spanish attorney’s current or prospective clients. That attorney has not only relinquished his expectation of privacy, but there’s good reason (arguably) for the public to have access to what the newspaper lawfully published. And while the EU has no equivalent of the first amendment, U.S. law almost always tilts in favor of free speech as a founding bulwark against entrenched, institutional corruption.

In the case of revenge porn, however, “there’s no free speech interest in publishing nude photos,” Citron says. “If someone shares nude images or permits them to be taken, when those are released, the wrong is the intentional violation of that confidentiality, not the search engine’s reproduction of it.”

The real solution, according to Citron, is to enforce laws that are already in place—in many revenge porn cases, photos are actually obtained through hacking the victim’s phone or computer—as well to pass extremely narrow legislation that specifically targets individual privacy breaches while also giving the first amendment a wide berth. The CCRI helped draft an anti-revenge porn bill in Maryland (which was unanimously approved by the Maryland’s House of Delegates this past March and is currently with the state’s senate) that more clearly defines the illegal activity and corresponding penalties. “That law would punish a very narrow set of privacy violations that have a profound impact on victims lives,” Citron says.

RELATED: Revenge Porn King Hunter Moore Finally Arrested

Yet she also believes that the new law falls short by not including a provision that would allow for the takedown of a victim’s photos and videos beyond the offender’s site. So even if those files vanish in one place, they could live on throughout the Internet.

Unrelated to revenge porn, Citron would also support regulations or legislation that allow users to demand that data brokers—the companies that track our activity online and resell that data to advertisers and other third parties—delete that collected information, on the grounds that it’s not public or of public interest.

If those sound suspiciously like requests for some version of the EU ruling—with its expansive demands for link deletion—welcome to the complex, circuitous world of digital privacy. But the key issue is, once again, the expectation of privacy. Nude photos and online spending habits are private. Proof that a lawyer was found guilty of breaking the law is not. Unlike the right to free speech, which is relatively easy to define and quite literally the first concern of the U.S. Constitution, the right to privacy is a necessarily complicated concept defined by context and exceptions. And while the two rights can come into direct conflict, freedom of speech tends to bolster privacy, allowing news outlets to cover the NSA’s more nefarious spying activities, for example.

Neither the CCRI nor the ACLU are claiming that stateside privacy laws are perfect. Citron is pushing for an update to the federal cyberstalking law that would demand a takedown of specific victim-related data if the offender is found guilty (a topic addressed at length in her book, Hate 3.0: A Civil Rights Agenda to Combat Discriminatory Online Harassment, due out this August). And Rowland is concerned about privacy violations that lead back to the government, including the public release of mugshots, even for individuals who were booked but never convicted.… Read the rest

Illinois Senate votes to outlaw revenge porn

SPRINGFIELD — Posting sexually explicit pictures of intimate friends or ex-lovers on the web would become illegal in Illinois under legislation the Senate passed Thursday.

Sponsoring Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Orland Hills, said the practice, known as revenge porn, represents “cyberbullying at its max.”

Under the proposal, it would be a felony to post nude and sexually explicit pictures of another person without his or her permission. The bill also would make it a crime to require a fee to get pictures removed from a web site. The maximum penalty would be up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine, though judges would have discretion to impose lesser punishment.

Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, will sponsor Hastings’ measure in the House, but has his own version and expects to meld the two together.

“Legislation like this is needed in Illinois,” said Drury, who noted similar bills have passed in California and New Jersey. “It’s needed everywhere and on a federal level. I think this is a big problem. It ruins people’s lives. So we need to do something to help.”

The move attempts to update statutes to address technological changes as social media advances on the Internet.

The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has argued the bill would limit the First Amendment right to free speech, but Hastings said not all speech is protected in the U.S. Constitution.

“Anything that’s obscene in nature isn’t protected,” Hastings said. “I think that non-consensual explicit pictures posted online is obscene, and it won’t hold the same judicial standard as regular free speech would.”

The bill passed the Senate 52-0.

mzurick@tribune.com

Illinois Senate votes to outlaw revenge porn – Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-illinois-senate-votes-to-outlaw-revenge-porn-20140227,0,6509340.story
revenge porn – Google News… Read the rest

California debates bill to punish “revenge porn” – San Francisco Chronicle (blog)

The California Legislature is debating a bill this week that would make it a misdemeanor to publish nude pictures online when the intent is to cause emotional distress.

The proposal covers images that were taken with consent but posted publicly without permission. It’s a complex distinction that is dividing proponents of free speech rights, on the one hand, and advocates of privacy rights and victims, on the other.

A variety of sites have emerged for the explicit purpose of featuring what’s sometimes called “revenge porn.” But the proposal targets the uploader not the host, in keeping with federal laws that inoculate sites from the actions of their users.

The bill would:

… provide that any person who photographs or records by any means the image of another, identifiable person without with his or her consent who is in a state of full or partial undress in any area in which the person being photographed or recorded has a reasonable expectation of privacy, and subsequently distributes the image taken, with the intent to cause serious emotional distress, and the other person suffers serious emotional distress would constitute disorderly conduct subject to that same punishment.

It could be punishable by up to a year in prison, if the victim is a minor or the individual commits more than one offense.

It’s unclear how one’s intent in uploading such material would be established.

The American Civil Liberties Union previously came out against the measure, which already passed in the California Senate. There are worries that the law could be used to squelch otherwise protected speech, including protest art.

“We opposed the bill as it was originally introduced on free speech grounds,” ACLU Legislative Director Francisco Lobaco said. “We are reviewing the amended bill and haven’t weighed in on it yet.”

Eric Goldman, law professor at Santa Clara University, expressed his concerns to the New York Times:

I’m unclear exactly how much ground the new law would cover that isn’t already covered by existing laws, such as anti-harassment/anti-stalking laws. As usual, one of the key questions is how existing law has failed and what behavior is being newly criminalized.

But Erica Johnstone of the organization Without My Consent noted in an interview: “The problem is those (existing laws) are not being enforced. More often than not, victims file reports and are told nothing can be done.”

Police often don’t realize existing statues could cover such acts or aren’t trained to apply those legal tools to digital crimes, she said.

Johnstone said the main flaw she sees with the California bill as written is that it doesn’t reflect the fact that the content used in revenge porn is often created by the victim him or herself.

“A lot of times the parties are in a long-distance relationship and this is the way of establishing intimacy over long distance,” she said.

Other proponents of victims point out that strongly discouraging the act in the first place is critical, because one such material is posted, it can quickly spread across the Internet, making its total removal near impossible. The threat of uploading intimate pictures and videos, or promise of removing them, is sometimes used to blackmail victims for sex or money.

It costs at least $10,000 in legal fees to issue a subpoena to an online company demanding the IP address that links a real person to an uploaded file, said Colette Vogele, co-founder of Without My Consent, in an earlier interview.

Depending on the facts of the case and the state involved, the victim might be able to sue the person for defamation, publication of private facts, breach of confidence and other claims. Some acts can rise to the level of criminal offenses, including stalking and extortion. But it costs thousands of additional dollars to file a lawsuit.

Revenge porn is just one form of online harassment. I explored the broader topic in an earlier story that noted how widespread it’s become:

University of Maryland law Professor Danielle Citron noted in a recent blog post that the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that “850,000 people in 2006 experienced stalking with a significant online component,” while other researchers predict that 30 percent of Internet users will “face some form of cyber harassment in their lives.”

It can take many forms, including hate speech, threats of rape and sexual violence, and posting of nude or doctored images. …

The results can be traumatic and tragic, as exemplified by the case of Tyler Clementi. In 2010, the 18-year-old Rutgers student killed himself after his roommate hid a webcam in their room and streamed video online of his sexual encounter with another man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California debates bill to punish “revenge porn” – San Francisco Chronicle (blog)
https://news.google.com/news/feeds?hl=en&gl=us&authuser=0&q=revenge+porn&um=1&ie=UTF-8&output=rss
revenge porn – Google News… Read the rest

Houlton police chief Butch Asselin wants Maine to make revenge porn criminal

It’s a story that’s been told way too often in other parts of the world. Recently, it hit home in Houlton.

The story was given a face nationwide by Holly Jacobs, a doctoral student in Florida. She had sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend in a long-distance relationship that later went sour. Holly says her ex posted the photos on one of a growing number of websites featuring “revenge porn,” images posted by ex-lovers or friends seeking to hold the pictured person up to ridicule.

She had no idea those photos were online until an anonymous email arrived. It said, “Someone is trying to make life very difficult for you.” The email included a link, and when she clicked it, Holly was redirected to a site showing those pictures.

After contacting the website hosts and demanding that the photos be taken down, the pictures went viral. Holly says they appeared on numerous sites, often with her email and workplace addresses included. Someone posed as Holly and posted a fake profile on a porn site. The hate mail and stalking became intense.

Holly has sued her ex, who says he did not post the pictures. He says his computer was hacked, the hacker was responsible for the unauthorized posting, and therefore he’s also a victim.

You might wonder, can’t laws against harassment be used against those who post revenge porn? If it’s a single posting, rather than repeated acts, the laws in most states say no. If you send the photo willingly — even with the expectation that it won’t be shared — that can be an “out” for the one who posts it. The federal Communications Decency Act shields website operators from legal action based on what others post.

Some sleazy operators demand money to have photos removed. Such ransom schemes only add injury to insult, with no guarantee the photos won’t appear on other websites.

Only New Jersey and California have laws on the books making revenge porn a crime. Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin have also considered criminalizing revenge porn, although none of those states has yet passed such a law.

In Houlton, police chief Butch Asselin is hoping Maine makes such acts criminal.

“I think it’s a form of abuse,” Asselin told me last week. He thinks criminal rather than civil penalties will better deter revenge porn. “It’s a form of harassment. I think people are more likely to contact the police than contact an attorney to have this stopped.”

Even though his review of one offending site showed photos of women “from all over” Maine, Asselin says he has not yet found much support among legislators for changes during the upcoming session.

Professor Danielle Citron, who studies privacy and cyber hate crimes, has written extensively on revenge porn. She’s calling for laws in all states to crack down on the practice while protecting the right to free speech. Citron wrote recently in Slate, “Certain categories of speech can be regulated because they bring about serious harm and make only the slightest contribution to free speech. Revenge porn comes under that exact heading.”

The takeaway for consumers is not to put potentially embarrassing pictures on the Internet; even if removed from the original posting, there’s no guarantee they won’t reappear somewhere else.

Getting embarrassing photos taken down from websites can be challenging. Help can be found at two websites we’re aware of, womenagainstrevengeporn.com and endrevengeporn.org.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Houlton police chief wants Maine to make revenge porn criminal – Bangor Daily News
revenge porn – Google News… Read the rest

It’s Still Easy to Get Away With Revenge Porn

“Nice tits, honey. Haven’t I seen you online?” The man says it casually, with a suggestive grin, as he walks past Hollie Toups down the [his] aisle. She’s bothered by the remark, of course, but it’s not the first time she’s heard it; for the better part of the past year, this treatment has become routine. She’s mainly just embarrassed her mother is standing next to her and had to hear the bawdy comment.Toups, a 33-year-old teacher’s aid and criminal justice student, discovered last summer that topless photos of her had been leaked online across dozens of websites. Some pictures included her email information and social media links — some even shared her [his].In her hometown of Nederland, Texas — a small community of 17,000, about 90 miles east of Houston — the chances of being recognized are high. Case in point: this afternoon.But she’s far from the only one. Over the past few years, hundreds of women and men across the world have fallen victim to this new form of cyber bullying, spawning harassment and costing jobs and relationships in the process.

“Revenge porn,” it’s called, is the act of online publishing intimate photos, videos and contact information of a person without his or her consent. Usually, it’s the work of a disgruntled ex-partner or random hacker (the latter in Toups’ case).

Two weeks ago, California become the second state in the U.S. behind New Jersey to [his]. Now, New York is considering similar action.

And while it may seem like a black-and-white issue, revenge porn has opened up debates about the First Amendment and the ethics of criminalization.

Toups is one of a handful of victims fighting to make it a criminal offense. But, like most things sex-related, it’s a highly sensitive subject — and still largely a work in progress.

Hunter Moore is often referred to as the “Internet’s most-hated” person; he helped launch the revenge porn empire.

In 2010, the 27-year-old set up the now-defunct site, IsAnyoneUp?. The rules were simple: Anyone could submit naked photos of another person (almost always an ex-lover) to the site’s database. As the site’s popularity grew, so too did the trendiness of posting nude photos as a form of vengeance. It didn’t take long for copycat sites to appear. Traffic was booming, which meant prime real estate for advertisers. Moore eventually shut the site down in 2012, after he claimed receiving an abundance of underage submissions, but by that point hundreds of sites like it had already launched.

Toups was at work just a few months later when she found out her photos had been posted on a site called Texxxan.com.

“I got a phone call from a friend who had overheard this group of girls talking about this website,” she tells me. “She said there were tons of nude photos of different girls, including me. Of course, I didn’t believe it.”

Toups hung up the phone and tried to get back to work, but the thought burned in her mind.

Since she couldn’t look at the pictures at work, Toups drove home and opened Texxxan.com from her personal laptop. The site’s homepage showed a map of Texas, where visitors could click on various regions to view that area’s victims. Toups clicked on the southeast portion, where Nederland is located, and saw a picture of her next to 12 other girls from the area. When she expanded the image, her full name, a map with her home address pinpointed, a link to her [revenge porn] page and a long list of photos appeared.

Hunter Moore in a 2011 interview with Anderson Cooper. Moore voluntarily shut down IsAnyoneUp? in April 2012.

“The first picture I saw was this one I had posted to Facebook — it was me at a pool party wearing a bikini. So that wasn’t a big deal,” she says.

“But then I scrolled down. There were these topless photos I had sent to a boyfriend back when I was 24 — and I was 32 at the time I was reading this.”

It must be him, she thought — he’s the only one who had access to the pictures. And then she saw something that threw her off: The very bottom picture was a selfie she had snapped just a year or so prior. She had been working out and taking self portraits every week to track the progress. One morning, when she was stepping out of the shower, she took a photo of herself on her [his]. She didn’t send it to anyone; it was just a picture, taken in the moment, which she intended to keep for herself. So how did it get on this website?

“I knew it couldn’t have been him then — he didn’t have access to that last photo. It was eight years after we broke up, and I didn’t send it to anyone.”

Toups emailed the website and explained that she wanted the photos down. After a few days, the site sent her a message back with a link asking for her credit card information for payment — extortion for removing the photos. She considered giving in for a second, if only out of desperation, but realized it wasn’t a guarantee the pictures wouldn’t just reappear a few days later. A site that posts naked photos without permission and asks for personal banking information, after all, doesn’t exactly scream “trustworthy.”

The next week, the harassment began.

“It wasn’t bad at first. Just people — a lot of random people — sending me messages on Facebook or tweeting at me, saying they wanted to meet up and ‘have a good time,'” she says. “Then there were people who would approach me in public” — like the man in the [his] — “and laugh about seeing my pictures up online. It was so humiliating.”

Then it turned aggressive.

“One of the tweets at me said something like, ‘I get the feeling you like to sleep around, don’t be surprised if you get raped one day.’ It pissed me off more than it terrified me, but I still couldn’t help feeling unsafe.”

Toups decided to hire an investigator.

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What is Revenge Porn – Deseret News

The Internet has opened a Pandora’s box filled with conflicts between individual privacy and free speech, the latest coming as a result of a particularly sleazy practice known as revenge porn. State governments are starting to look for ways to punish people who post compromising photographs online as a way to wreak vengeance on a former spouse or lover.

States on the forefront of the movement, particularly California, have found the road to regulating such behavior is strewn with legal potholes. Nevertheless, efforts to curb the practice should move forward, and the issue is worthy of consideration by the Utah Legislature when it convenes in January.

Of course, the problem wouldn’t exist if people adhered to traditional tenets of modesty and resisted the temptation to pose for compromising photographs they intended for the eyes of one person only. These become painfully and criminally damaging when put online for strangers to peruse worldwide. Once distributed, they cannot be retrieved. Instead, they proliferate in boundless ways, leading to permanent and repeated violations of the subject’s dignity and privacy.

Using the Internet as a tool of reprisal is repugnant behavior, but it is apparently becoming commonplace, according to experts who have chronicled a vast and growing number of online examples.

Fashioning a law to prosecute people who post such photos is proving difficult. A measure before the California Assembly would make it a crime to distribute images

“…with the intent to cause serious emotional distress, and the other person suffers serious emotional distress.”

Intent, however, is tricky to prove, and in such a prosecution, a defendant could argue he or she did it with other intentions. And one can only imagine the legal gymnastics that would ensue when lawyers parse the term “serious emotional distress.”

In addition, such laws face automatic First Amendment hurdles. In Utah, lawmakers encountered similar obstacles while trying to deal with the problem of “sexting,” the practice of sending sexually explicit messages by email or text. Laws allow for prosecution of sexting under child pornography statutes, which can be a harsh remedy for behavior that often results from a complete lack of judgment and an immature understanding of how the world works. But the advent of revenge porn is clearly proving that taking or posing for lewd pictures can lead to something far from harmless.

That’s why educators, counselors and child psychologists are right to lobby for more efforts to educate teenagers about the perils of such sordid use of technology. While kids may not know better, adults should.

In the case of revenge porn, the victims share in complicity for creating the weapons of their own distress. Nevertheless, it should be against the law to intentionally hurt someone by whatever means. Legislative bodies should explore ways to address the problem.

Revenge porn – Deseret News
https://news.google.com/news/feeds?hl=en&gl=us&authuser=0&q=revenge+porn&um=1&ie=UTF-8&output=rss
revenge porn – Google News… Read the rest

Revenge porn law in California could pave way for rest of nation

A bill that would criminalize revenge porn — nude or sexual photos, generally of former wives or girlfriends, posted online by an angry ex — could pave the way for other states to adopt similar laws, putting perpetrators in jail for six months if convicted a first time, and up to a year for repeat violations. The bill, already approved by the California Senate, is expected to go to the state Assembly as soon as this week, despite concerns from some lawmakers and experts who fear it could curtail First Amendment rights.

“It’s traumatized real victims; it’s a growing problem,” California state Sen. Anthony Cannella, told NBC News. “Technology moves much faster than our laws,” said Cannella, a Republican, who authored the legislation. “When we identify a problem, it’s our responsibility to deal with it.”

If passed by the Assembly, SB 255 will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval. It’s not clear whether Brown will support it. “Generally, we do not comment on pending legislation,” Brown press spokesman Evan Westrup told NBC News.

One supporter with whom Cannella has been working is Holly Jacobs, a Florida woman who founded End Revenge Porn after her own nightmare with the issue began more than four years ago.

Like many other couples, Jacobs and her boyfriend had private photos of intimate moments — photos not meant for public consumption. After their breakup, Jacobs saw her photos plastered everywhere on the Web, including on Facebook and several revenge porn sites. Her email address was part of what was shared, “so I had harassing emails constantly coming in,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in May. “My work location was posted up and there, so I was terrified. I was so afraid that someone would physically stalk me.”

In the era of instant uploads, a slimy sub-industry of sites have emerged that are dedicated solely to such “revenge porn” shots and videos. It has become a money-making “sport,” of which one of the most notorious players is Hunter Moore, who was under FBI investigation for his controversial site, Is Anyone Up.

Though the sites often include personal information about the victims, including names, email addresses and even links to their Facebook profiles, the sites themselves are protected from liability because of Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which says that websites and Internet service providers can be treated as a publisher for “any information provided by another information content provider.” With little legal recourse, these victims are left feeling helpless and humiliated.

Jacobs’ fear turned to anger, and she decided she would no longer be a victim. She filed criminal and civil charges against her ex. The ex, through his attorney, has denied the charges against him, contending he is just as much a victim as Jacobs, and that the reason the photos and video were shared is that his computer was hacked.

Those who might think, “Well, you shouldn’t have taken those photos … ” aren’t living in the real world of what has become, especially for a younger generation, a cultural-technological phenomenon as normal as tweeting and texting.

“It’s absolutely just a new version of victim blaming,” Jacobs said in May. “What I would say to victims when they hear that is, just hold on to that little voice inside of you that says, ‘This is not right.’ What’s happening to me is not OK, and there need to be laws in place against this.”

The California legislation, Jacobs told NBC News, “is so important because it has the potential to set a precedent for other states considering to criminalize revenge porn.”

Precedents and objections
The state that comes closest to doing that now is New Jersey, which since 2003 has had an invasion-of-privacy law aimed at video voyeurs, people who secretly videotape others naked or having sex without their consent, according to a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General in that state.

That law was one of those used to prosecute Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi, found guilty last year after setting up a webcam to spy on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, in 2010. Ravi livestreamed the video and tweeted about his roommates’s activities. Clementi, 18, committed suicide after learning about the public humiliation.

“Legislators did not discuss the issue of ‘revenge porn’ in passing this law” in 2003, Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general’s office, told NBC News. “Nonetheless, the language of the statute is quite broad and arguably applies to allow prosecution of an individual in a ‘revenge porn’ situation.”

Other revenge porn law efforts could soon be underway in Texas, Wisconsin and Georgia, Jacobs said.

While most everyone will agree that the revenge porn practice is reprehensible, crafting legislation that doesn’t inadvertently restrict free speech is the challenge.

In Florida, where Jacobs lives, an attempt at a revenge porn law failed this year partly because of concerns the way the law was written could interfere with free speech. Jacobs cited another concern: a requirement that personal information, such as the victim’s name and email address, also be posted as part of the photos or videos shared.

“I’m sure the revenge porn posters would have easily found a way around this,” she told NBC News. “Our personal information is already posted when our faces are in these pictures.”

Florida State Sen. David Simmons and state Rep. Tom Goodson, both Republicans, plan to try again with a new bill with different wording next spring when the legislature is back in session.

Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, said a “balance needs to be struck properly,” and he is not sure the California law will do that.

“You need to be extraordinarily careful in criminalizing privacy law because of the risk you’re going to deter legitimate speech,” he told NBC News. “With the California bill, I don’t see an exemption here for material that’s legitimately newsworthy.”

Take for example, he said, “circumstances where photographs exist of a political candidate who has run their campaign on their squeaky-clean image,” but there are photographs of that candidate in a compromising position.… Read the rest