‘Revenge Porn’ laws are needed everywhere

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WASHINGTON, January 26, 2014 — Revenge porn, or the release of sexually explicit photographs or video online, is currently against the law in California and New Jersey.  Maryland Delegate Jon Cardin, a Democrat running for his state’s attorney general, proposed the bill last November.  In so doing he shared a recent IT study:

Half of those surveyed had shared intimate photographs of themselves with a loved one or friend, and ten percent have been threatened with public exposure by an ex.

Cardin’s bill would make those convicted subject to up to five years in prison, or a $25,000 fine, or both.

This reprehensible practice should be criminal everywhere.


The American Civil Liberties Union opposes enacting laws against revenge porn, arguing it might restrict free speech rights, which has been a concern in other states as well.

Florida lawmakers rejected a similar bill last year amid concerns over First Amendment rights. In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court cited concerns about free speech in striking down part of a 2008 law enacted after a teenager who was teased online committed suicide.  New York and Wisconsin are considering revenge porn laws.

In November, 2013, activists seeking to criminalize “revenge porn” indicated there was movement with a member of Congress to prepare federal legislation that would force Internet companies to take down the sometimes X-rated content.

The proposed law has not be finalized and its sponsor does not wish to be identified yet, according to University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, who is helping draft the bill.

“The impact [of a federal law] for victims would be immediate,” Franks said. “If it became a federal criminal law that you can’t engage in this type of behavior, potentially Google, any website, Verizon, any of these entities might have to face liability for violations.”

Contrary views have been expressed.

“Going after intermediaries is a really bad idea,” says Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The entire speech ecosystem ends up suffering because those service providers [would] decide what people can and cannot post, even if it isn’t illegal.”

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

Last year, seventeen women in Texas sued a website called Texxxan.com, and unidentified defendants, and hosting giant GoDaddy in response to the posting of nude images of them, ostensibly by their revenge-seeking ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands.  The civil lawsuit alleges invasion of privacy.  Certainly.

The lawsuit is winding its way through the Texas legal system.  Unfortunately, it is likely that the plaintiffs in this lawsuit will lose.

The claims against the subscribers and GoDaddy are governed by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields internet providers and users, in effect giving them immunity from civil liability for providing or using an “interactive computer service.”

Since the law was passed in 1996, dozens of civil lawsuits have been filed and none have found success in making host providers responsible.  The categories of claims against host providers have included Defamation, False Information, Sexually Explicit Content including minors, Discriminatory Housing Ads, and Threats.

Again, the reason for the failure to succeed against the host-provider is simply that the provider did not create the content. The messenger is not responsible.  Neither is the audience.

The world does see, however, the application of the popular slogan “what comes around goes around.”

One disgusting website, www.IsAnyoneUp.com, was shut down by its founder, Hunter Moore.   The site featured nude photographs submitted without the consent of the subjects, and included real names and addresses.  He allegedly made over $13,000 per month from ad revenue.  Time Magazine called Moore the “revenge porn king” and he has been referred to as “the most hated man on the Internet”.  Moore has now been arrested for computed hacking.

In an interview with the New York Observer Moore said:  “In a perfect world there would be no bullying and there would be no people like me and there would be no sites like mine… but we don’t live in a perfect world.”

Break-ups with your significant other used to subject you to being trash-talked to your circle of acquaintances by your ex.  Maybe even the ex would talk to family about you.  Now, the trash, and much more, can be instantly communicated to the world. The Internet takes vindictiveness and exposure of very personal information to an unthinkable level.  The repercussions can be devastating.  A woman’s images and her private information as exposed could affect her social status and even her employment.  Having nothing to do with the effects to the “outside world”, exposure can and certainly does create mental anguish, emotional distress, embarrassment, depression and shock. There is certainly temporary and even long-term psychological harm.

As defined everywhere, battery involves a physical touching of your body.  It should be expanded to include “touching” or harming you psychologically. Psychological harm can be much more devastating and longer lasting than physical harm.

The following elements currently must be proven to establish a case for battery: (1) an act by a defendant; (2) an intent to cause harmful or offensive contact on the part of the defendant; and (3) harmful or offensive contact.

The actions of sick ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands who post private and compromising content should be criminal.  Civil lawsuits are not enough, and probably are a waste of time unless the ex is named as a defendant and has money.

Our Federal elected officials and those in every state should take up this matter and create a criminal law that subjects those that post these images without consent to jail time, public lashing, salt being placed in the wounds thereafter, and permanent monikers similar to those of sex offenders.

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. 

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon:  Click here to order

 

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  • djmdgo

    Seriously? Against the law in Collyfornia? With the garbage that comes out of Hollyweird you’d think anything goes…hmmm