- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2016

Legislation proposed Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives would make it a federal crime to share nonconsensual pornographic images, or “revenge porn” — the first offering of its kind to be brought up in Congress after dozens of states passed similar measures of their own.

The Intimate Privacy Protection Act is the product of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, and has so far garnered bipartisan support from at least four other members of the House as well internet companies Twitter and Facebook, among others.

If approved, the IPPA would make it illegal to distribute or profit from revenge porn, and would open violators up to a maximum prison sentence of five years behind bars.

Thirty-four states have already implemented revenge porn legislation of their own, but passage of the IPPA would allow federal prosecutors to pursue charges against individuals accused of knowingly distributing sexually explicit material “with reckless disregard for the victim’s lack of consent.”

“What makes these acts even more despicable is that many predators have gleefully acknowledged that the vast majority of their victims have no way to fight back,” Ms. Speier said in a statement. “Celebrities and other high profile victims might be able take on these predators in civil courts, but the average person can’t afford that option. Even more disturbing is the number of victims who have mustered the courage and strength to pursue criminal charges, only to learn there is no law that protects them. My bill will fix that appalling legal failure.”



“It is important we provide victims of such serious violations of privacy a course for response,” added co-sponsor Rep. Ryan Costello, Pennsylvania Republican.

Specifically, the proposal would establish penalties for individuals who knowingly share without consent material considered to be either sexually explicit or which otherwise shows “the naked genitals or post-pubescent female nipple of a person.”

Exemptions would apply to content if its disclosure is believed to be in the bona fide public interest, and a proposed safe-harbor provision would provide certain protections for third-party websites and content providers whose customers use their services to share revenge porn. Another provision, meanwhile, would allow prosecutors to charge websites believed to be actively promoting or soliciting nonconsensual, X-rated content.

“Technology today makes it possible to destroy a person’s life with the click of a button or a tap on a cell phone. That is all anyone needs to broadcast another person’s private images without their consent. The damage caused by these attacks can crush careers, tear apart families and, in the worst cases, has led to suicide,” said Ms. Speier said.

Critics, however, object to Ms. Speier’s proposal as overly broad and possibly violative of First Amendment free-speech protections.

American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Lee Rowland told BuzzFeed that the proposal should be re-written so as to apply to individuals who “maliciously and intentionally invade another person’s privacy,” not “anyone who shares nudity without first getting a permission slip.”

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the legislation, which is being sold as revenge porn legislation, actually incorporate the idea of revenge,” said Ms. Rowland.

Ms. Speier’s proposal has been rigorously vetted by legal scholars, her office told BuzzFeed, and is expected to gain broader support as the proposal is considered.

“This legislation, if enacted, would create real deterrence, and dramatically decrease the amount of non-consensual pornography on the internet,” her office said.

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