ITIF Calls for Federal Law to Criminalize ‘Revenge Porn’ and Empower Victims

The report, titled “Why and How Congress Should Outlaw Revenge Porn,” argues that while some states and private businesses have taken steps to address the issue, the federal government has not done enough to provide victims with the legal tools necessary to deter abusive behavior or fight back against the perpetrators. So ITIF recommends that Congress criminalize the practice, increase resources for victims, and help the private sector do more to combat invasions of privacy so those being preyed upon can take back their lives.

“Regardless of the origins, no one should have explicit images of themselves shared without their consent,” said Daniel Castro, vice president of ITIF and co-author of the report. “This is an egregious invasion of privacy, most often inflicted on women to punish or silence them. It severely damages reputations, endangers safety, and inflicts unjust financial, emotional, and social costs. While 24 states and some private companies have taken a stand to slow this insidious crime, we need a consistent, nation-wide policy that adequately brings remedy to the victims and dissuades future violations.”

ITIF specifically recommends that Congress move forward quickly with legislation, such as Rep. Jackie Speier’s (D-CA) must-anticipated “Intimate Privacy Protection Act,” to criminalize the nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images. In addition, ITIF recommends that Congress create a special unit in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide immediate assistance to victims of nonconsensual pornography and direct the Department of Justice to work with the private sector on developing best practices for online services to quickly remove these images.

“It’s time Congress starts taking this issue seriously. We need a federal law that criminalizes revenge porn by focusing on perpetrators, not platforms, while also still protecting free speech,” said Castro. “The law should provide victims an opportunity to seek strong legal remedies for the damage done to their lives. Just as importantly, it should send a clear message to would-be offenders: If you distribute revenge porn, you are going to jail. With a new law, more resources, and private sector best practices, we can reclaim the Internet as a safe space for the exchange of ideas, legal commerce, and innovation.”

Read the report here.