Federal 'Revenge Porn' Law Edges Toward Congress

SACRAMENTO — Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said she is preparing to introduce federal legislation to criminalize revenge porn, and hopes to bring the bill to Congress sometime next month.

While Speier speculates that many lawmakers will support the gesture, the legislation is still a work in progress. Several major details yet unclear include the maximum punishment for offenders and specific rules governing the removal of the content in question.

California, New Jersey and (just recently) Idaho have already outlawed the practice of posting explicit, nonconsensual photos, often of an ex or former lover, and many other states are working towards analogous legislation of their own.

However, many revenge porn operators remain safe due to a technicality afforded by Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act, which grants Internet companies illegal immunity if hosted content provided by a third-party doesn’t violate criminal or copyright law. A federal ban of the practice would put the onus of content removal on webmasters and even search engines.

University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, an advocate for victims of revenge porn and a board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, is helping to draft the legislation.

An ongoing criticism of criminalizing revenge porn (both statewise and nationwide) has been that federal laws regulating the Internet may encroach on free speech and lead to unnecessary censorship.

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