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Bill Criminalizing “Revenge Porn” Introduced in Congress

Today, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would criminalize the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images, commonly referred to as “revenge porn.”

The Internet Privacy Protection Act would make it a federal crime for individuals to knowingly distribute sexually explicit images or video of a person without or with a “reckless disregard” for their consent and for websites to intentionally promote or solicit such content.  Borrowing the terms of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law would not apply to websites and other interactive computer service providers that merely show content provided by another information content provider.  (Twitter and Facebook have backed the bill, while Google is staying neutral.  The law also would not apply to voluntary exposure or visual depictions in public places or in the public interest.  The proposed penalties range from fines to up to five years in prison.

While Speier’s bill is the first federal legislative attempt, thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar legislation.  However, some of these laws have been challenged on First Amendment grounds.  For example, the ACLU, National Press Photographers Association, American Association of Publishers, and other businesses challenged Arizona’s revenge porn law, which had no requirement that the individual distributing such images have an intent to harm—that is to say, take revenge against—the image’s subject.  Last year, an Arizona district court judge entered a decree stating that the state could not enforce the law as written.  The proposed federal law requires “knowing” intent, but there are higher intent standards in criminal law.

Speier has said that she will introduce the legislation next Congress if it fails to move in the current, election-dominated session.

© 2022 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 197
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About this Author

Hannah Lepow, Covington, data and cybersecurity lawyer
Associate

Hannah Lepow advises clients in the media, technology, and telecommunications industries on a wide range of regulatory and privacy issues.

Ms. Lepow is a member of the New York bar. She is currently not admitted in the District of Columbia, but is supervised by principals of the firm.

  • Advises multinational companies on compliance with various privacy laws.

  • Advises print, broadcast, and digital news organizations on First Amendment and media law issues.

  • ...
202 662 5477
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