• Congress to Take on Porn
  • August 14, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • After the August recess, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) will introduce legislation that will make it illegal to distribute explicit images without the consent of the subject. The legislation, which is expected to be bipartisan and bicameral, is aimed at outlawing so-called "revenge porn."

    More than half of U.S. states have some law on the books that deals with the issue of revenge porn, but some now believe that it is time for the federal government to step up to help stop the practice. There is opposition however, among free speech advocates who worry that the legislation is a dangerous nose under the tent when it comes to legislating speech.

    Speier is a San Francisco-area liberal who says it’s not about speech but rather it's a sexual-harassment issue and a privacy issue. Speier had hoped to introduce the bill before the August recess, but supporters in the Senate asked her to wait until Congress returns in September.

    Over the past year, as the subject of revenge porn has gotten increasing attention in the news, law enforcement officials have stepped up efforts aimed at ending the practice. In January, the Federal Trade Commission ordered a revenge-porn website taken down because it violated fair business practices.

    It's not just law enforcement that is stepping up its efforts, companies like Google and Bing, have made changes to their policies to make it easier for victims of explicit images published without their consent to take down the compromising photos. Social networks like Facebook and even the notoriously lawless Reddit have also joined the effort.

    Free speech advocates say that criminalization is the wrong approach and especially criminalizing the sharing of a lawful image that was lawfully obtained. They argue that any legislation should focus instead on the intentional and knowing invasion of privacy and warn that the legislation is so broad that it is unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny from a court if passed.