Revenge Porn: A New Internet Crime

Posted by & filed under Computer Crimes, Cyber Crimes.

 

 

Revenge Porn: New Orleans Computer Crimes Attorney Perspective 

 

By: Elizabeth B. Carpenter, Esq.

 

Remember years ago when you would pack a shoe box with photos and other keepsakes after breaking-up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Thanks to the internet, this practice has changed a little.  Yes, people still have the boxes with the stuffed animals, dried flowers and  promise ring, but they may also have a few intimate, sexual, digital photos sitting in a box of a different kind – Inbox. Those privately shared sexy photos are now in the hands of an angry ex who thinks that it would be amusing to post them on-line.  This is where trouble begins.

 

Our nation seems to be gearing up for a host of laws aimed at addressing a new social phenomenon referred to as “revenge porn” –generally defined as the act of posting sexual photos of an ex-lover online for vengeance. The photos were typically exchanged consensually over the course of a relationship and meant only for the other person.

 

California is leading the charge to criminalize revenge porn.  Last week, the governor signed a new law that makes revenge porn punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine, or both. Repeat offenders may be punished by up to 1 year in jail.

 

Critics of revenge porn laws raise First Amendment challenges because these laws criminalize speech after-all.  California seems to have sidestepped this problem by limiting the scope of the statute and enumerating what the law does not cover.  For example, the new California revenge porn law does not apply to the following:

 

  * Selfies

  * Third Party Redistributors

  * Hackers

  * Non-Confidential Photos

  * Insufficient Intent to Cause Emotional Distress

 

As you can see, the statute is so narrow that I would be surprised if there are many criminal prosecutions under this new law.  Revenge porn laws would help victims more if they applied to website operators who republish user submissions, such as isanyoneup.com or myex.com.   However, states cannot impose such sanctions due to 47 USC 230, the 1996 federal law that says websites aren’t liable for third party content.

 

Currently, Louisiana does not have any proposed criminal legislation addressing this issue. However, I imagine it is only a matter of time before our lawmakers propose a bill.  As of this writing, the states of Arizona, Georgia, New York, Texas and Wisconsin are looking to enact similar laws. It will be interesting to see where the policy debates over revenge porn go from here. I feel certain that California’s small step isn’t the final word on this matter. The legal challenges that restricted California’s goal should provide helpful insight to other states who hope to strike more boldly against revenge porn.

 

Since the beginning of time sex, love and crime have been bedfellows. Now more than ever it is important to watch your internet footprint as we enter the brave new world of digital photography, social media and  their many pitfalls.  Do the best you can in love and your romantic relationships.  The next time you are tempted to post sexy photos of your ex in an attempt to seek revenge — think twice.

 

 

Visit Ms. Carpenter’s web site for more information on Cyber Crimes and Internet Crimes in New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

 

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