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Could A Revenge Porn Bill Send Gawker’s Founder To Jail?

Scott Greer Contributor

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives unveiled a new bill this month that hopes to criminally punish those who spread “revenge porn,” and one prominent figure should be happy it wasn’t passed sooner: Gawker founder Nick Denton.

California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier introduced the Intimate Privacy Protection Act (IPPA) on July 14 with bipartisan support from fellow Democrats and a few Republicans. IPPA would make revenge porn — non-consensual pornographic images and video that are shared over the internet — a federal crime. If passed, violators of the law would be subject to fines and/or a jail sentence of up to five years.

IPPA would apply to anyone who distributes the explicit material — whether it is a jilted ex-lover who posts it on social media initially or a site like Gawker which knowingly reposts it without the victim’s consent. According to the bill’s sponsors, revenge doesn’t necessarily need to be the intent of the individual who spreads the content — it just needs to amount to an invasion of privacy of the non-consenting party.

This measure comes in the wake of Gawker’s recent troubles over it publishing a sex tape of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan. In May, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, won a $115 million lawsuit against Gawker over the matter after a jury found that the First Amendment’s freedom of the press protection didn’t apply to the sex tape and constituted an egregious invasion of his privacy. (RELATED: Hulk Hogan Body Slams Gawker, Gets $115 Million Judgment)

While Gawker’s chief Nick Denton is still challenging the verdict in the courts and his company is in freefall, he could have had a bigger problem on his hands than paying Bollea millions if IPPA had passed earlier. Considering that the jury found his website’s post of the sex tape an invasion of privacy, Denton could find himself in a criminal court if his company posts another sex tape without the consent of the offended party.

Lawyers for Gawker have previously argued that the posting of the sex tape was not revenge porn. “No one was trying to get revenge when this video was released,” Gawker’s general counsel Heather Dietrick told Fusion in 2015. But, as previously mentioned, IPPA says involuntary porn doesn’t need to come with an intent for revenge or harassment. Thus, Dietrick’s argument would be invalid if the federal law is passed.

With that in mind, IPPA could become the “Gawker bill,” as The Gateway Pundit is calling it, if Denton and others at the media site become some of the first to become prosecuted under the law.

However, luckily for Denton, he would not be able to be prosecuted for the Hogan tape as the law cannot be applied ex post facto. He can only be found criminally liable if he engages in the practice again.

Interestingly enough, Gawker published an article supporting Rep. Speier’s efforts to enact a federal law against revenge porn in 2014. The article even celebrates going after online entities which post graphic images and build their fortunes “atop posting stolen naked images.” It is unclear whether the writer of the piece was aware of Gawker’s record on this matter.

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