Tech

Bipartisan Group Of Senators Introduce Revenge Porn Bill

A group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill Tuesday aiming to combat the apparent rise of “revenge pornography.”

Known as the Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act of 2017, the prospective legislation would federally outlaw sharing personal, explicit images of others without proper consent. Prosecutors would have to prove that the accused perpetrator clearly knew that the images were intended to stay private and were shared with the purpose of ultimately causing harm.

The bill would also empower the U.S. Department of Justice by ensuring it is fully equipped to address such privacy violations.

The legislation was officially proposed by Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. The proposal was submitted for consideration alongside Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California who introduced her own similar House version of the bill last year.

“Perpetrators of exploitation who seek to humiliate and shame their victims must be held accountable,” Harris said in an official statement. “It is long past time for the federal government to take action to give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on these crimes.”

As attorney general of California, Harris spearheaded the prosecution of several revenge porn operators, even while the advent of such acts was (and is) still relatively new, since its prevalence seems to coincide with technology’s growth.

Speier’s 2016 bill didn’t advance through the complete legislative process, but she is now cosponsoring the ENOUGH Act along with Republican Reps. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Tom Rooney of Florida, Ryan Costello and Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania, and Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts.

“For victims of nonconsensual pornography, technology today makes it possible to destroy a person’s life with the click of a button or a tap on a cell phone,” said Speier. “The damage caused by these attacks can crush careers, tear apart families, and, in the worst cases, has led to suicide.”

In fact, 93 percent of victimized people said they have suffered significant emotional stress, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. Another 49 percent said they have been stalked or harassed online by users who have viewed the intimate material. One in 25 Americans have been threatened or were direct victims of nonconsensual image sharing, which equals approximately 10 million Americans, another study shows.

“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,” stated Speier.

There aren’t nearly sufficient enough protections for potential victims of revenge porn, nor any formidable punishments for the perpetrator, according to Speier.

“Even in states that have laws on the books, the average person can’t afford to take on these predators in civil courts,” she said. “Worse are the numerous victims who have mustered the courage and strength to pursue criminal charges, only to learn there is no law that protects them. The ENOUGH Act will fix this gaping hole in our legal system.”

Many diverse organizations and companies — such as Facebook, AT&T, National Association of Police Organizations, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Feminist Majority, the Family Online Safety Institute, and the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative — have supported the bill. (RELATED: Social Media Site Reveals 300 Anonymous Users’ Personal Info To Revenge Porn Victim)

“In a world where smart phones and devises are used to record and transmit every moment in life, it is becoming increasingly important to protect against malicious sharing of private, explicit images,” said William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations. “These online privacy violations exponentially and disproportionately target women and minors. While 35 states have enacted statutes in this area, federal intervention is necessary to provide complete and consistent coverage across state lines.”

Facebook, which endorsed the legislative effort, has been trying to combat revenge porn. The company announced further steps to purge lewd content from the platform (and the internet) in April by introducing new preventative tools. One helpful feature is “photo-matching technologies to help thwart further attempts to share the image on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram,” according to Facebook.

More recently the tech conglomerate started a new experiment where people can preemptively send Facebook officials nude photos for the company to save. The technology would block someone else from uploading the photo, protecting the subject of the image.

People were critical, or at least highly skeptical of the initiative, arguing that increasing the recipients of the intimate images may be counterproductive. For instance, people, including public officials, are already worried about tech companies’ utilization of user data.

The test could prove a viable option to effectively combat revenge porn. (RELATED: Facebook Defends Its Revenge Porn-Fighting Program That Requires It To Receive Nudes)

The legislative process naturally takes a long time, so Facebook is proactively trying to engage in virtual battle in the meantime.

Daily Caller News Foundation Chairman Tucker Carlson stated Monday night on his Fox News program that Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas is a victim of revenge porn. Barton sent a photo of himself masturbating to a woman he reportedly had a consensual relationship with. An anonymous Twitter user eventually posted the photo, that has now spread across the internet.

“So who’s the victim here?” Carlson asked on the show. “If you guessed the 68-year-old man whose five grandchildren can now find naked pictures of him online, you obviously haven’t been reading The Washington Post lately.”

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