Home > Web > Revenge porn could soon become a federal crime in…

Revenge porn could soon become a federal crime in the United States

Editors’ Note: This article was updated on April 8, 2016, to remove the name of a party involved in a revenge-porn lawsuit.

If Congresswoman Jackie Speier has her way, the United States could finally be on the verge of creating a federal law banning revenge porn, reports Gizmodo.

Representative Speier told the publication that the bill will be introduced sometime this spring. “Today, it’s possible to ruin someone’s life with the click of a button, by publishing another person’s private images without their consent,” said Rep. Speier. “Our laws haven’t yet caught up with this crime.”

As with all federal laws, Speier’s national revenge porn bill is designed to deter people from committing the crime, by making revenge porn a federal offense. Not only would individuals who upload and share content without someone else’s consent be liable, but so would people who run revenge porn sites. These criminal penalties will be doled out depending on the severity of the issue, because there is no one punishment that fits every crime possible within the confines of the bill.

Related: A California man was just convicted for posting ‘revenge porn’ of an ex on Facebook

There will be no minimum penalty for revenge porn, though the bill does set a maximum penalty that includes jail sentences.

Ultimately, the bill is designed to help those who don’t have the means to defend themselves. “If you’re Jennifer Lawrence, you can pay a high-priced lawyer to demand that websites take your picture down, but for an average person, the current system offers almost no recourse,” said Rep. Speier.

Issues and the push for help

Gizmodo does point out several issues with the bill: For example, even sites that unwittingly host links to the content, such as Facebook and Google, could face penalties under the bill for enabling distribution. In addition, the bill could violate existing laws meant to protect free speech. Consider the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge of an Arizona law that criminalizes revenge porn, arguing it goes against the First Amendment.

Even so, the push for revenge porn laws has been loud and clear. Back in December of last year, Noe Iniguez was the first person to be sentenced under California’s revenge porn law for publishing naked images of his ex-girlfriend on her employer’s Facebook page. Last August, a woman sued Facebook and a man named Adeel Shah Khan after Khan posted manufactured, sexually explicit images of her — and Facebook did not react in a timely manner. Earlier this month, 28-year-old Kevin Bollaert became the first person convicted in the U.S. under state law for running a revenge porn site, while also running another revenge porn site that would charge victims $350 to have nude pictures of them taken down.

Currently, 16 states have passed legislation, effectively banning revenge porn. Reddit recently issued a ban to nude images and videos on its site, unless the content has the consent of the people in the footage. Google, meanwhile, will block any sort of sexually explicit content, regardless of whether the people in the videos expressed their consent or not.

With that in mind, while the national revenge porn bill will likely be a contentious topic of debate on Capitol Hill, there seems to be a solid chance the bill will become a law.