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Government Censorship The Internet

Federal Bill Would Criminalize Revenge Porn Websites 328

Posted by timothy
from the drawing-lines dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a thought-provoking article at TechDirt: "My own representative in Congress, Jackie Speier, has apparently decided to introduce a federal 'revenge porn' bill, which is being drafted, in part, by Prof. Mary Anne Franks, who has flat out admitted that her goal is to undermine Section 230 protections for websites (protecting them from liability of actions by third parties) to make them liable for others' actions. Now, I've never written about Franks before, but the last time I linked to a story about her in a different post, she went ballistic on Twitter, attacking me in all sorts of misleading ways. So, let me just be very clear about this. Here's what she has said: '"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.' That makes it clear her intent is to undermine Section 230 and make third parties — like 'Google, any website, Verizon... face liability.'"
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Federal Bill Would Criminalize Revenge Porn Websites

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  • Freedom of Speech? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:38PM (#46666007) Homepage

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    And, as we learned from "People vs. Larry Flint" (and other, less popular, sources), porn is speech...

    However disgusting, "revenge porn" ought to remain legal...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is freedom of speech, much like many other things that are found to be illegal based on other grounds. Soon I bet, there will be so many laws against USA websites, that nobody is going to want to risk hosting their website inside the USA.

      This basically is requiring all content to be moderated before being available to the internet community, there goes a huge chunk of the internet.

    • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:46PM (#46666057) Homepage

      The main court case in People vs Larry Flynt is about the right to mock public figures, in that case Jerry Falwell. It had nothing to do with pornography.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler_Magazine_v._Falwell

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:55PM (#46666135) Homepage Journal

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      And, as we learned from "People vs. Larry Flint" (and other, less popular, sources), porn is speech...

      However disgusting, "revenge porn" ought to remain legal...

      Cough. Your freedoms end where other's begin. Cough.

      • by pla (258480) on Friday April 04, 2014 @08:31PM (#46666691) Journal
        Cough. Your freedoms end where other's begin. Cough.

        So far, virtually all the discussion on this topic has centered around the rights of the victim. I apologize for responding to you personally, but you have the most visible post continuing the "wrong" discussion here. :)

        The problem here has nothing to do with whether or not we should condemn the concept of "revenge" porn, but rather, whether a website should bear liability for content posted by a third party. That should scare the hell out of all of us, liberal or conservative, pro-porn or feminist, rich or poor.

        Look beyond porn for the implications of this - Should Amazon bear criminal liability for allowing a joking review that says "this blender turns lead into gold" to remain? Should Yelp need to fact check every single review of some rat-trap motel or suffer liability for defamation? If a blogger dares to criticize Italian or French judges for their sham of a legal system, should Wordpress' CEO (or given what I just said, Dice's CEO) go to prison? And those don't even get into the issue of search engines, where literally everything on the internet can show up - Do we really expect Google to bear the burden of making sure no one has posted something incorrect or illegal on the entire internet?

        If so... Goodbye, Internet (at least in the US - Which still effectively means "Goodbye, Intenet"). Section 230 means more than a loophole for pesky websites to intentionally look the other way - It makes the entire concept of public participation in a shared discussion possible.
        • by schnell (163007)

          The problem here has nothing to do with whether or not we should condemn the concept of "revenge" porn, but rather, whether a website should bear liability for content posted by a third party.

          Excellent point, but one that has been generally tested in the past under the DMCA "Safe Harbor" provisions [chillingeffects.org]. Generally speaking, this issue has only come to light in situations where a website was hosting copyright-infringing content posted by a user. The Safe Harbor provisions basically said "you aren't responsible for manually screening all content on your website, but if a user posts infringing material and the copyright owner sends you a 'DMCA takedown notice' then you must act swiftly to remove it." Ob

      • by BronsCon (927697)
        And if I post revenge porn of an ex and he or she should choose not to pursue it, that should be the end of it. They can sue for defamation of character under current laws and they'd have a bullet-proof case, assuming they could prove it was me who posted it. Perhaps my ex knew I was going to post it and he or she is fine with it? Under the proposed new law, that doesn't matter; by posting it after the end of the relationship, I've committed a crime.

        Nope, not okay.
    • by fermion (181285) on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:06PM (#46666221) Homepage Journal
      The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.

      In the Larry Flynt case the naked women were deemed to be adults who allowed their image be taken and printed. He likely did the paper work for releases, and photographed the women overtly and with full knowledge that the images would be published. Honestly the freedom of speech that was being protected in that case were of the women, not of Flint. A negative ruling would have meant that an adult women, or in the case of hustler many men, would no longer be able to expose herself or be penetrated for compensation.

      So the cases are not really comparable. In revenge porn the images may not have taken overtly. In revenge porn the woman might not have agreed to have the images spread beyond the local area. Furthermore, it might a violation of copyright. If the victim did know that she or he was being filmed, there is no guarantee that victim was not in fact the one who made arrangement for the film to be made and in fact the person with copyright. The person who releases the film may just be an participant who did not own the camera, or set up the production, and therefore has not right to communicate the film to the public.

      So to be clear if a person arranged to video themselves masturbating or having sex with partner(s) that are aware the video is going public, then stopping that would be a violation of free speech, but otherwise not. If we did accept your argument, then we would also have to accept that it would be a violation of free speech to film film young girls in a dressing room or to take covertly film women going up an escalator so we can see up their dresses. In both cases, this is not acceptable, and the former is is not only because of age issues.

      • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:18PM (#46666293) Homepage

        Honestly the freedom of speech that was being protected in that case were of the women, not of Flint.

        Distinction without (much) difference. Point is, publishing a picture — pornographic or otherwise — is speech...

        it might a violation of copyright

        Your image is not copyrighted — or else paparazzi's trade would've been illegal. But we already have laws against copyright violations (if any), so why the new bill?

        If we did accept your argument, then we would also have to accept that it would be a violation of free speech to film film young girls in a dressing room or to take covertly film women going up an escalator so we can see up their dresses.

        My argument is that, generally, whatever can be legally seen (and peeking into a dressing room is illegal), can also be legally recorded (and the recordings subsequently published). Any laws to the contrary violate the First Amendment.

        • Honestly the freedom of speech that was being protected in that case were of the women, not of Flint.

          Distinction without (much) difference. Point is, publishing a picture — pornographic or otherwise — is speech...

          it might a violation of copyright

          Your image is not copyrighted — or else paparazzi's trade would've been illegal.

          Paparazzis can publish those photos because they are of public figures. They cannot do the same to people who are not public figures. Just as some asshole doesn't have the right to publish sex photos of his ex, because she (if the cases we're discussing) is NOT a public figure, and does have an expectation of privacy.

          • by BronsCon (927697)
            And the current law provides more than adequate means to pursue your ex when he or she posts those photos or videos. We don't need a new law for this. Period.
      • Well on my other three hands I suppose that when an action takes place in front of others that it is very hard to consider it private at all. For example doing something in front of a photographer might really tend to bring into doubt that privacy applies in any way. Even taking the film to a store to have it developed makes it public.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:07PM (#46666223)

      There is a fine line between free speech and slander.

      At the very least I'd put in a safeguard where you'd have to prove that the entity you claim is trying to display you negatively is actually really trying to do so. I.e. Google has no interest to show your naked pics you handed to your ex in secrecy. Your ex does.

      If anything, make people liable for releasing naked pics of people they have no right to release. So you better guard those naked pics of your lover well.

      Because else, all I'd have to do to evade that law is to post the pics of my ex on some board and wait for the various sex sites in countries that don't give a fuck about what Mrs. Congresswoman barfed up pick them up and display them.

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:07PM (#46666227)

      What is speech? I think that's making any argument you'd like for or against something, the establishment, other ideas, the man, etc.

      I think requiring the sign-off of all parties for pornographic videos (or any any other really where privacy is a reasonable expectation) might not be a bad idea.

      But maybe it can be generalized. Say video of a person is captured in a changing room at some dept. store, the security guard takes it to try to sell it to a magazine because he thinks it's a famous person, it gets printed/put on the web. Should that be allowed? Now, think, that perhaps even if it was a celeb, they should be afforded the same protection as well?

      I think perhaps it can be generalized to situations where the person expects privacy, video should not be released unless it's in the public interest (you catch the President discussing how the NSA can break into private homes to get documents) or for other criminal matters (politician taking bribes, adult trying to lure kids in a van, whatever).

      Isn't there a line that protects both free speech and human dignity?

      Given how small cameras and microphones have come, our freedom of speech has slammed into our rights to be safe and secure in our own homes, and lastly our own persons, our bodies.

      Just like disallowing someone to yell fire in a theater, you are not actually imposing on free speech in a significant way, (I can still argue that it can be allowed, or that fires in theaters are a problem, etc), I don't see how allowing for human dignity will impose on free speech here.

      I can see how a law will do that, but only if we try to be staunch and try to resist at all costs. This debate has been long in coming. We should participate and be instrumental in crafting something reasonable instead of letting a draconian law pass that merely uses a legitimate issue for the legislators' and their handlers' own ends.

      What do we have to lose out on? A quick laugh at Star Wars kid where we got a few seconds of enjoyment at the cost of years of this kid's life and psyche, and other misfortunates like him? Where's the free speech in that?

      • Obviously free speech does mean some pain and suffering as part of that freedom. America is supposed to be a melting pot so we ignore the screams when the lobster hits the boiling water. South beach in Miami has hundreds of topless girls on the beach and about 20 miles north of that is a nude beach. Obviously some women would strongly object to being filmed or photographed naked or topless . But guess what! It's a public beach and they are in public view. It is none of their business wh
      • by rahvin112 (446269)

        Revenge porn is 99% of the time pictures taken by a significant other during a relationship and then spread after the breakup or taken by the victim themselves and distributed to the significant other for their (ahem) personal use.

        Voyeurism and hidden camera shots are illegal in almost every jurisdiction, in fact one of the few that wasn't just changed their law after a guy was acquitted. You are building a straw man talking about these already illegal actions. Much like all the other strawmen in this threa

    • by asmkm22 (1902712) on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:11PM (#46666251)

      And without any additional context, you could argue that child porn or horse porn is also perfectly legal, due to free speech. Fortunately, free speech only goes so far in terms of justifying certain actions.

      • by BronsCon (927697)
        Lewd acts with a minor are illegal in most places in the world. As a result, photographs and videos of such acts are also illegal; it's got nothing to do with the recording medium and everything to do with the acts being recorded. I have a whole different set of issues with simple possession being a major crime, since there are any number of ways you can innocently come into possession of such materials without knowing it, and simply possessing the material does not mean you're creating a market for it (the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jim Sadler (3430529)
      Porn is not speech any more. The Supreme Court now says money is free speech and corporations are people. Being that i am not a corporation I suppose that now I am not a person and therefore laws do not apply to me at all.
      • by alphatel (1450715) *

        Porn is not speech any more.

        Tell that to Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Farrah Abraham or any other of our very famous revenge porn stars with their sex tapes custom-built for the teenage audience.

        Where would any of these sluts be if it wasn't for their 'revenge porn' boyfriends? Oh right, sucking **** just as depicted. Okay yes I agree let's make these awful things federal offenses. Can we prosecute the whores who star in them too? Please?

      • Political posturing +2. Actual substance, 0. You should run for office.
    • by alen (225700)

      Larry flynt used paid models who knew what they were doing, most of the time

      revenge porn is posting pics of normal people who didn't give their consent to post private photos for everyone to see and some people to make money off them

    • The freedom of speech referred to (presumably the one in the US Constitution) allows freedom of *political* speech.

      Other forms of speech have been regulated -- slander, shouting fire in a theater, calls to insurrection.

      I am not for Rep. Speir's bill in any way, but one can't hide this kind of despicable speech behind the first amendment.

      OTOH, making websites who do not or cannot control content responsible for same seems likely to be struck down by the courts, if passed, and unlikely to find much support am

    • 'However disgusting, "revenge porn" ought to remain legal...'

      It's not about free speech. It's about not respecting someone else's privacy. It's about breaking an implicit trust.

      Tell you what, if it's OK to post the pictures I say it should be mandatory that the real name of the person submitting them should be posted right alongside the image, in order that women everywhere could know who to avoid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:41PM (#46666031)

    There are an uncountable number of ways this could go, but it seems to me that the potential for huge problems stemming from how dangerously close the bill gets to free speech issues is large.

  • Congress is very good about sprinting these stupid bills up to get voted on, esp. when they're coming up for re-election. Doesn't matter which party you like, they're all the same. They suck at issues that are difficult and try to enact stupid shit like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is there actual real revenge porn out there? From what I have seen it's all been fake (ie. porn stars).

  • ... what about the fact that about 95% of "revenge porn" is fake -- just staged to look that way and then sold to people who like the idea? Take a look at gfrevenge . com (purposely not made into a link; absolutely NSFW) and let me know if you think there's one piece of actual revenge porn on there.

  • It will only to serve to restrict your rights when you least expect it.

    Support this, i hope it bites you in the ass, soon.

  • by godel_56 (1287256) on Friday April 04, 2014 @08:03PM (#46666565)

    Here's an idea from Todd Knarr, a commenter on the TFA web page:

    :

    "It might be better to criminalize, not the hosting of such material, but the solicitation of such material. Revenge-porn websites tend to make it clear they want you to post images and videos without the permission of the people in them. So, criminalize solicitation of posting of material without the permission of the people shown in it, and the demanding of payment to take such material down when the request to take it down comes from a person shown.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Do that and watch them try to use it to take out every torrent site in existence.

  • This potential law is fated to fail.
    Frankly, I doubt it was ever intended to succeed.
    Politicians do stupid things that make stupid people think they are actually doing something.
    I plays well with the hoi polloi.

    The supreme court has struck down similar laws, this one is DOA
  • One way to effectively accomplish the same thing without affecting freedom of speech is to assign copyrights of an electronic image where a naked person is the primary focus of the recording to the naked person. Then it becomes a copyright issue and not a free speech issue (that is, if you don't consider copyright to be a free speech abrogation!). This shouldn't affect normal porn since the actor would presumably agree to assign the copyright over to the business or photographer for a fee.

    Now, sex acts woul

  • If I were to call Prof. Mary Anne Franks a skanky cunt with progressive derangement syndrome exacerbated with fascist tendencies she could have me arrested?
  • There was at least one revenge porn site that published people's names, addresses, phone numbers, and links to the person's facebook profiles. They also created a service that would allow you to remove those images - for a few hundred dollars. If you don't want those results showing up on google whenever someone googled your name, you were pressured to pay-up.

    I'm not really surprised that pro-piracy Mike Masnick is also in favor of revenge porn extortion.
  • Is this currently legal in the united states - posting porn photos of people on websites without their consent?

    If no, why is a new law needed?

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