Legislation aims to protect victims of ‘revenge porn’
■ Chronicle News Service
U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), alongside Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) today introduced the Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that will address the malicious exploitation of private, explicit images, such as “revenge porn” and “sextortion.” Rep. Speier previously introduced a version of this bill in the 114th Congress, the Intimate Privacy Protection Act of 2016.
“Perpetrators of exploitation who seek to humiliate and shame their victims must be held accountable. 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,” said Sen. Harris.
“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. The damage caused by these attacks can crush careers, tear apart families, and, in the worst cases, has led to suicide,” said Congresswoman Speier. “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. Even in states that have laws on the books, the average person can’t afford to take on these predators in civil courts. 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.” “It’s time to update the law and ensure that individuals who maliciously exploit the private information and images of their victims are held accountable under criminal statute. New technologies can make our lives better, but they also open a new platform for abuse and exploitation. Congress needs to help our laws adapt to this new era and this bill will provide the tools needed to stop these acts,” said Sen. Burr.
“As a former prosecutor, I know the importance of a victim-centered approach in the fight against online exploitation. Our bipartisan legislation ensures that we put the needs of victims of nonconsensual online exploitation first and provide law enforcement with resources to help bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” said Sen. Klobuchar.
“In a world where smart phones and devices are used to record and transmit every moment in life, it is becoming increasingly important to protect against malicious sharing of private, explicit images. 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. This important bill would narrowly establish federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, explicit images without consent, while including civil liberty safeguards to ensure that only those who share with malicious intent are liable,” said William Johnson, executive director of National Association of Police Organizations.
“We are grateful to the ENOUGH Act’s bipartisan, bicameral supporters for protecting the victims of ‘revenge porn,’ ‘sextortion’ and other online crimes. With sexual predators increasingly turning to the Internet to do harm, we need effective tools for addressing these serious privacy violations. We look forward to working with Congress to help pass this bill,” said Rebecca O’Connor, vice president of public policy, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
The ENOUGH Act would:
– Ensure that the Department of Justice has an appropriate and effective tool for addressing these serious privacy violations.
– Narrowly establish federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, explicit images without consent.
– Strike an effective balance between protecting the victims of these serious privacy violations and ensuring that vibrant online speech is not burdened. A prosecution under the ENOUGH Act would require proving that the defendant was aware of a substantial risk that the victim expected the image would remain private and that the sharing could cause harm to the victim. A prosecution would also have to prove that no reasonable person would consider the shared image to touch on a matter of public concern.
The ENOUGH Act is cosponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Walter Jones (R-NC).
The ENOUGH Act has received support from more than a dozen leading organizations from the law enforcement, women’s rights and family issues, and technology community including National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, National District Attorneys Association, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, Facebook, and Twitter.
As Attorney General of California, Harris led the prosecution of operators of “revenge porn” websites, believed to be the first prosecutions of their kind in the nation. Harris also launched a Cyber Exploitation Task Force, which built new online resources for victims, developed new tools and training for law enforcement officers, and partnered with the technology sector and leading researchers to counter these privacy violations. Harris also sponsored state legislation that gives law enforcement the ability to search for and seize non-consensual intimate images pursuant to a warrant, as well as enables prosecutors to bring charges in the county where a victim resides.