Should Revenge Porn Be a Crime?

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"Should Revenge Porn Be a Crime?" Produced by Amanda Winkler. About 6 minutes.

Original release date was April 14, 2014, and original writeup is below.

Romantic breakups are never fun—but add revenge porn to the mix and things can get downright cruel. Revenge porn is defined as the dissemination of sexually explicit images of an ex-lover without their permission. It can often be emotionally devastating and have lasting effects on a person's reputation and employability.

That's exactly what Nicole Coon, a 25-year-old Virginia nursing student, experienced last November when she found a sexually explicit video of herself on the Internet. Coon had filmed and sent the video to her boyfriend of 8 years. However, once the relationship went sour he allegedly posted the video on a website advertised as a platform for revenge porn.

Coon's sexuality—intended only for the eyes of her partner—was now being seen by family, friends, and potential employers.

"I did it because I was happy and in love and I trusted someone," says Coon. "The experience has changed me as far as trust goes. My trust [in people] has gone down tremendously."

Coon contacted the website asking for it to be taken down. The website would only comply in exchange for $500. Coon declined to pay, feeling that she shouldn't be financially burdened for what was a cruel invasion of her privacy. 

The nursing student fears for her future employment opportunities. 

"My reputation is everything. I don't want this situation to alter anything in the future. I don't want [people] to look at me any less."

Virginia Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) wants to deter this behavior in his state. He introduced House Bill 49 last December, which would make revenge porn a state crime. Since then his bill has been incorporated into Delegate Robert Bell's (R-Charlottesville) House Bill 326. Bell's legislation overwhelmingly passed both chambers and was signed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in March.

The legislation will go into effect this July and makes it unlawful for "any person who, with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate, maliciously disseminates or sells" an image which depicts another person in a "state of undress," where "such person knows or has reason to know that he is not licensed or authorized" to disseminate. The new law classifies any violation as a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and up to a year in jail.

Virginia, Utah, and Idaho have all enacted legislation this year criminalizing revenge porn; they join New Jersey and California, which were the first states to do so. Nineteen other states have proposed similar legislation. 

While most people sympathize with the victims, some fear criminalizing this behavior will have dire consequences on constitutionally protected free speech.

"The Supreme Court's position, rightly, is that all speech is by default protected by the First Amendment," says Lee Rowland of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

"We always start out with the presumption that speech is protected by the First Amendment. It's a messy, beautiful element of our constitutional tradition. Where the Supreme Court has acknowledged that you can assign penalties to behavior, it's when that behavior is conduct rather than speech. And that's what makes revenge porn so difficult, because the conduct is speech. The conduct of posting a photograph without someone's consent is speech."

Rowland argues that most state laws that have tried to grapple with revenge porn end up criminalizing the posting of an image.

Revenge porn, according to Rowland, is better handled under civil law. In most states, civil laws are already on the books that make it unlawful to maliciously cause emotional distress, intentionally invade someone's privacy, or participate in extortion and harassment. Expanding civil laws to include revenge porn where they don't, Rowland says, is a better solution than criminalizing it.

"At the end of the day, those civil remedies need to take into account the complexity of human intimacy, the violation of human trust," said Rowland. "Those are things that the civil law does all the time in the context of human relationships—the criminal law not so much. The criminal law is such a blunt instrument that we have real doubts that it's possible to draft these laws in a way that won't end up criminalizing pure speech."

Revenge porn

However, Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-Calif.), is looking to take the criminalization of revenge porn to the federal level. Speier is expected to introduce a bill sometime next month. A federal law against revenge porn could have a whole new set of First Amendment consequences.

State legislation, such as Virginia's, only targets the individual posters and not the websites which serve as platforms. Most revenge porn websites are federally protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This section prohibits websites from being held liable for the actions of third parties, but a federal criminal law against revenge porn would nullify this protection.

Civil libertarians are concerned this type of statute will lead to overreach and have a chilling effect on speech. Internet companies, it is feared, would respond to a criminal law against speech by removing content anytime there is a complaint in order to avoid legal issues. Individuals, too, will begin to self-censor rather than be caught up in criminal court. If this happens, the universe of speech available online will begin to diminish. 

"I am truly concerned that the new wave of revenge porn laws will create far more problems than solutions," says Rowland. 

About 6 minutes.

Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Joshua Swain, Jim Epstein, and Winkler. Narrated by Alexis Garcia. 

NEXT: Assassins, Witches, Secret Societies, and Skepticism: Jesse Walker Discusses Conspiracy Theories With the National Capital Area Skeptics

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  1. I do not see how this can be even considered to be criminalized.

    It is not uncommon for a lover to send a love letter or poem that they would later be embarrassed by. If that was put on the web after a break out should or could that be criminalized? If the material is not obscene and is not stolen or taken without the subjects consent, what is there to punish??

    1. Revenge porn inconveniences middle class white women, and there is no greater sin in American politics then that.

      1. Eh, some of the revenge porn cases involved the bastard putting up not just the cheesecake photos but the person’s name, number and home address.

        To me that seems more worthy of a tort than simply posting the pictures.

        1. I don’t peruse revenge porn sites, so I wouldn’t know. But that’s still speech, unless she was unlisted, in which case you might have a case.

          1. There are fake revenge porn sites.

            Any real revenge porn site should include searchable names.

            1. Careful! I was on a fake fake revenge porn site the other day. I thought it was real and it was but it really wasn’t really real.

              1. Good for you. Do not get scammed by a fake revenge porn site. They PAY those skanks for porn!

                There are now even Free fake revenge porn sites that profit from advertisers.

                It is just lamentable concerning the dearth of true revenge porn!

        2. I think making it civilly actionable makes sense, and it probably already is under a tort category like “intentional infliction of emotional distress”. A few tweaks to that law might be justified.

          But of course they’re talking criminialization here — that gets the heavy hand of the state directly involved, and probably broadens the definition of “Revenge Porn”. I suspect there might be a broader agenda here in terms of drying up the amateur porn market by imposing record-keeping requirements and such, and that therefore this criminalization move might be supported by large porn media interests looking to beat down their competition.

          1. The large porn media, they’re a dinosaur, and they have about as much chance of getting rid of amateur porn as AmBev has of getting rid of micro brewing.

            1. Didn’t you see the link the other day about Florida fixing to pass laws that microbreweries can’t sell their suds directly but must sell the stuff to a wholesaler then re-buy it at a markup — even if the beer never leaves the microbrewery?

          2. There are already record-keeping requirements that have shut down a lot of small time internet porn producers. Google “2257 record keeping requirements”

            It’s part of a general trend: The presumption of innocence is too “inconvenient” for the government, so the government requires that you keep records to prove that you aren’t making child pr0n, or selling guns to felons, or whatever, and makes it a crime to not have records kept to the proper government specifications – even if you are completely innocent of the underlying act that the government is trying to stop.

  2. No, it shouldn’t be a crime.

    Next!

  3. If revenge porn is wrong, Warty doesn’t want to be right.

  4. I think $500 is a pretty good trade for all of the future earnings she fears she may lose.

    1. Exactly. Dirty deeds done away dirt cheap. Looks like she’s already wasted $500 of opportunity costs where she could be working instead of driving around and spending her time granting interviews that are only going to draw more people to her porn rather than her plight.

    2. Which makes it a form of black mail.

      1. If you dither in that world, that form of blackmail is currency.
        The real answer is that she should be proud of her body, her future employers should be glad that it won’t take a cocktail party and some seducing to find out what she’s got.
        And if her friends can’t accept her explanation that she gave then they are douchebags.
        I’ve never met the woman, but I understand and if I should consider her within my realm of attractiveness it would be judged on other criteria.

  5. Unless there is a contractually agreement not to share the images, a person loses ownership of the photos once they hit the send button.

    The best way to fight revenge porn, I think, is to out and ostracize people who engage in it.

    1. Ostracism is a lot of work. We should just have the State throw people in cages instead. Much easier.

  6. Maybe, just maybe, women should think twice about being photographed in the nude in an era when it has never been easier to share photos.

    Would anybody be taking this seriously if Anthony Weiner was pushing these laws?

    1. WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR DAUGHTERRRRRR!

      1. Is that craiginmass?

    2. My wife is the sort that loves to have her picture taken. But when I’ve tried to photograph her in lingerie, or nude, she doesn’t like it. I don’t really know why, never really asked her, but I keep trying, you know, because I’m a total horn dog like every normal guy.

      1. There’s a process that you have to follow. It can take years.

        1. 1- Put a bag on her head.
          2- Freely ply her with alcohol.

          (reverse sequence if needed)

          1. 1. I’ll put a bag over your head, Shreeky, if I could get your head out of Obama’s ass first.

            1. Just ply me with alcohol. You can then take a picture of my scrotum – as many as you like in fact.

        2. “Pics?”
          “Sure”
          “Nice!”
          “Thanks”
          ????
          Profit

          1. He said wife. There is no profit to be had.

            1. The second definition “advantage, benefit”

              1. The first 4 steps take awhile.

          2. P.S. Have you ever been to Tam O’Shanter’s? I’m thinking I want prime rib for easter brunch.

            1. Hadn’t even heard of it. The website looks nice.

              My aunt is doing Easter in Orange County for the whole family. If there isn’t a ham and a variety of quality mustard there will be a riot. I will personally import a Citro?n and flip it in her living room to make the point.

              1. You should bring your own omelette station while you are at it.

                I had the best omelette of my life last month at my parents’ 40th anniversary. The only thing they used that I don’t was grape seed oil in the pan…

                1. What oil do you normally use?

                  I usually just go scramble because I don’t care enough about presentation.

                  1. For high heat (not eggs) I use peanut, for pasta I use olive, everything else I use canola.

                    1. I have peanut, coconut, olive and grape seed. I also have avocado oil for salad dressings.

                      I cook a surprising amount in bacon fat.

                    2. I have coconut too. I forget about it because it isn’t in a bottle like the others. I like avocado, but it is ridiculously expensive. They even hollow out the bottle so you get less oil than you think.

  7. Always copyright your self-made porn. Your future great grand kids might benefit and think of you otherwise when they get their royalty checks.

  8. Anyhow, what I’ve yet to get answered is: What is porn?
    We’re gonna have to answer that before we decide whether some derivative is a crime.

    1. That’s a good question, because it’s apparently not the same for everyone. I’ve seen amateur porn site before where some guy is only posting pictures of women’s feet. Which I wouldn’t consider porn, but for him, I guess it must be.

      1. “That’s a good question, because it’s apparently not the same for everyone.”

        Which pretty much means anybody could bring charges on anyone.
        There’s a recipe for good law!

  9. You know, once you’ve shared pictures with someone, you really don’t know where they will wind up. So if you care about where they will wind up, don’t email them to anyone.

    I think the entire thing is stupid. I wouldn’t even do that to anyone. But it shouldn’t be a crime unless the person stole the photos from you.

  10. OK, which one of you Peanuts is going?

    Operation American Spring, the far-right, militia-aligned group that’s planning a pro-coup rally next month to force President Obama out of office by shutting down Washington D.C., got a shout-out this week from Tea Party Nation.

    TPN head Judson Phillips emailed members a column ? “Declaring War on Americans” ? by Alan Caruba, in which he applauds the militias defending the Cliven Bundy ranch and plugs Operation American Spring, while hinting that the demonstration may provoke a violent response from the government.

    – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/…..ssfW2.dpuf

    1. Thanks for the heads up. Count me in.

      1. Don’t worry, Shreeky has already sent all of our posting names to his master. He’s hoping to get a doggy bone.

        1. My IP address is on the same list as yours, pal.

          1. Yes, but the rest of aren’t troll plants, like you.

      2. What kind of weapon do you prefer for a coup?

        1. A couple of chickens. You know. I raise heritage chickens. You wouldn’t understand, but they are mighty pretty. Some are speckled like a guinea. Others not so much. The combs are amazing.

  11. Wonder what Jezebel thinks about this.

    1. You mean Jezebel the web site?

      They think you should be in jail because you’re probably thinking about rape right now.

      1. How did you know? (That I’m in jail)

  12. I think tort, not crime.

    -jcr

    1. So women are a dessert to you?

      1. I’m not partial to desserts myself, but this Schwartzwalder kirschtort is quite good.

  13. I have some awesome homemade ex-GF porn but I don’t seek revenge.

    I would just like their image to live on in the interwebs.

    1. No, no, that’s called animal porn Shreeky.

  14. OT: “That’s his ‘tryin out a nigga’ bark'”

    If everyone has already seen this, then a re-watch is warranted.

  15. OT.
    Some folks decide to tell M. Obama it’s not all about her:

    “Kansas speech by Michelle Obama draws complaints”
    […]
    “I’ve told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/art…..412661.php

    Couldn’t agree more.

    1. She wasn’t invited to speak?

      If she was then the little dipshits should STFU.

      Any commencement speaker could be said to be hogging the spotlight.

      1. You are a moron Shreek. The parents don’t want it to be the Michelle Obama show at the commencement. They want it to be about the students.

        Did you even RTFA or did you just see Obama’s name and start licking the boot automatically?

        1. Bullshit. It is a logistics issue.

          Popular speaker = fewer seats available. you know that if Zombie Reagan agreed to speak (creating a sellout) these pissants would not complain.

          1. The girl who started the petition is a Democrat.

            1. Who is complaining about the lack of seating.

              1. Right. Meaning . . . not a partisan thing.

                1. I never said it was partisan.

                  1. Weren’t you saying they wouldn’t be complaining if it was Reagan? Maybe I missed your point.

                    1. Yes, you partially win a point.

                      If it were Bill Clinton instead there would be no protest though. It is partly due to the Obama Derangement types.

                      Remember when POTUS Obama spoke to schools back in 2009 telling students to do their homework and study hard? It was a broadcast event and very innocent.

                      Well, the RWNJs held their kids out of school that day out of nutty fears of some subliminal “socialist” message.

                      These are the crazies we deal with.

                    2. The only point he has is on top of his head.

          2. I agree with you PBP (honestly, I don’t like Palin and I’m not into anal but I would ask you if other web posts let you get away with the username that you use here?)
            But on your new topic about Michelle, speaking, I’d agree that it would be all about her. It’s a prestigious affair having the First Lady speak at your school. To have an Elite Person, expert in nutrionology and everything else at my kid’s school would be a Dream come true.
            Reagan wasn’t a zombie. It was later confirmed that he was a victim of Alzheimer’s. I find it odd that you would be contemptuous of his condition.
            I wasn’t a fan of Reagan, but I never stooped to pejorative language to discuss my opinion of him.

            1. I voted for Reagan and don’t regret it. I did get pissed when he banned MDMA though. My point about Zombie Reagan is that he would dram millions if such an event occurred.

              Reagan also never put us into a shitty war in the Middle East. I could compliment Reagan 50 times.

              I hate George W. Bush and I escaped the GOP plantation forevermore because of the modern GOP.

              1. My vote is an irrational exercise and if voting interferes with my livelihood, i have consistently abstained.
                I neither hate Reagan nor hate either of the Bushes. It would be as big of a waste of time as hating Obama or Clinton, without wading into congressional waters. Which would be as wasteful as wading into senatorial waters.
                Or I hate them all. That rings true but doesn’t get me very far, but it has been lately with the younger crowd.

        2. Why not have Michelle Obama do a videotaped speech? That way she can give her remarks on Brown v. Board of Ed, and the graduation won’t be about her.

            1. The bureaucrats AKA the administrators of the various schools & their boards?

          1. I think the educrats want the honor of being in her presence.

            I doubt Mrs Obama is pushing herself into the limelight here. My guess is that the local educrats want the pictures of themselves shaking hands with her, the publicity of her visit, etc.

          2. Ted S.|4.19.14 @ 5:39PM|#
            “Why not have Michelle Obama do a videotaped speech?”

            Great idea! They could find the vid projector has problems and get right on with their commencement!

            1. Or better – put it to display her speech in a ‘free-speech’ zone in a supply closet.

      2. “Any commencement speaker could be said to be hogging the spotlight.”

        Yes, shitpile, and some commencement speaker might have something to say that was worth listening to; sleazy ‘photo-op’ politicians or their spouses not included.
        I realize that you’d want to go lick the toilet seat she used, but we’re discussing decent people here.

        1. Now Sevo here is honest, Smirkin Joe.

          He doesn’t want the bitch to speak because to him she is “not worth listening to”.

          Sevo believes his decisions should be universal. He is a tyrant wanna-be.

          1. Palin’s Buttplug|4.19.14 @ 5:40PM|#
            “He doesn’t want the bitch to speak because to him she is “not worth listening to”.”

            Yes, along with that lying bastard she married.

            1. Sevo,

              I keep pointing out to you how shriek is not sentient. I keep pointing out to you how every time you interact with it, you train its neural net to make more inane/offensive comments in hopes of garnerign a response.

              I can tell that shriek pisses you off. If you stop responding to its offensive comments, Shriek’s neural net will detune the weights given to the sequence of words that piss you off.

              Personally, Shriek doesn’t piss me off; it can’t comprehend what it is typing and thus getting angry at it is as futile as getting angry at an earth-worm or bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It does sadden me, however, to see decent people driven to distraction by a creature whose mind has become degraded to the point that it is little better than that of an insect.

              1. Because you are an idiot incapable of engaging me.

                You would flounce like a flounder in my presence!

                1. I bet you really believe that.

                2. Palin’s Buttplug|4.19.14 @ 6:22PM|#
                  “Because you are an idiot incapable of engaging me.”

                  Shitpile, a fruit-fly is capable of calling your bullshit.

        2. We had Al Gore speak at my commencement when I was an undergrad. It was during his campaign year. It was horrible. He didn’t even throw us a “here’s some advice” bone in the speech. It was a 30 min. stump speech. Fuck him.

    2. Some folks decide to tell M. Obama it’s not all about her:

      In this dispute my sympathies are with the students; it sucks when a school district is stupid enough to invite a politician to speak at a ceremony. Invariably their speech becomes a narcissistic episode in self aggrandizement, and rather than a ceremony marking the transition from student to graduate that focuses on the graduates, the affair becomes more akin to one where the graduates are props to provide a background for the politician’s bloviating.

      Then again, rather than petitioning her to not be invited, if I were a student there, I’d just skip the silly affair.

      1. “Then again, rather than petitioning her to not be invited, if I were a student there, I’d just skip the silly affair.”

        No problem with that, but read the Mom’s comment. She seems pretty proud of getting the kid that far.

        1. Oh yes. It must rankle that when she wants to fete him, she is constrained by the attention whoring by the local school administration.

          Skip the ceremony, and have a proper party; that’s my advice.

  16. I can’t find “Nicole Coon” on Bing or any porn tube search engine.

  17. Here’s a crazy thought. Don’t send nude pictures to people or homemade porn videos.

    1. Send away. Who the fuck cares. Don’t they use body doubles in movies? No wonder that I think Hollywood actresses are hot.

      1. Good point.

        Some bitch will no doubt file suit for PHOTOSHOP PORN some day.

        LOOK! THAT IS MY FACE ON SOMEONE ELSE’S BODY GETTING FUCKED! SUE THEM!

        1. Missed the point. Not many would, I’ll admit. But you’re still in the 60%ile

          1. No, jerkwad, I am right on your point.

            Send the pics. Who does care? They do photoshop. That is why you think Hollywood bitches are so hot.

            Your previous comment is recorded, dipshit.

  18. “A couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died 15 hours apart.

    “Helen Felumlee, of Nashport, died at 92 on April 12. Her husband, 91-year-old Kenneth Felumlee, died the next morning.”

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireS…..Zo.twitter

  19. How about a civil infraction and not a criminal one?

    1. The issue is if you send someone a photo or video it becomes their property unless explicitly stated otherwise. Unless it was done to cause distress, what’s the civil penalty?

      1. Unless it was done to cause distress

        Which is a safe assumption with reventge porn.

        1. Just because they call it revenge porn doesn’t make it so. I don’t doubt these websites offer to pay people for their photos and videos.

          I’m surprised though, they can post these videos without proof that everyone in them is at least 18.

  20. Well, few libertarians have daughters, but what if it was your sister? I see no reason why this shouldn’t be criminalized. It does damage to society and I see no benefits that society accrues from it. And if you ask me a photograph of someone nude is speech in the way that libel is speech.

    Speaking of sisters, people who have them are slightly more likely to be conservative:

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fac…..publicans/

    I think the main reason why libertarians here are supportive of revenge porn is they see it as revenge on slutty women who refuse to sleep with them. I don’t like slutty women much either but it’s the employers things that makes me sympathetic to Coon’s plight. The less things employers are allowed to judge people on the better in my mind.

    1. I think the main reason why libertarians here are supportive of revenge porn is they see it as revenge on slutty women who refuse to sleep with them.

      “Hurr hurr hurr! Libertarians are losers! They can’t get any pussy! They totally suck because if you aren’t chasing cous every second of the day, you aren’t a REAL MAN!”

      Fuck off, simp. You’ll always lose money chasing pussy, but you’ll never lose pussy chasing money.

      1. but you’ll never lose pussy chasing money.

        Not so, I once stayed at a hot poker game and missed some easy pussy.

        But it’s so rare that never is a good enough approximation.

    2. Hi Mary!!!

  21. Good gods no! There’s no way they could write the law that it wouldn’t be either unconstitutional and/or snag many more people than their intended targets. After all these years, they still haven’t come up with a non-subjective definition of obscenity. Furthermore, how do you prove it beyond a reasonable doubt?

  22. Yes, I say off with their heads at once!

    http://www.GotsDatAnon.tk

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