Revenge Porn Sites And The Problem With "Free Speech"

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1Photo: Courtesy of Kiki de Montparnasse
Your chances of becoming a victim of revenge porn are higher than the chances of you spending less than two hours at the DMV. One playful mirror shot and tap of the "send" button, and you've immediately put yourself at risk. It's an easy trap to fall into, and one of the saddest corners of the Internet you can stumble upon (or venture through). Sites like Private Voyeur and Texxxan have become hubs for bitter, vengeful exes to exploit their former flings and lovers.

The hot-button issue began picking up steam back in April, when rumblings of new law protections began surfacing. The Communications Decency Act (or CDA) has since taken a snail's pace to affect change and protect an individual's privacy. Having an image removed from a revenge porn site is, unfortunately, not easy. In most cases, the user posting the image and subsequent information (which can, at times, reveal the photographed's e-mail, place of work, and name) is often done so anonymously. Going to court risks press exposure and further humiliation — not an ideal position for these victims.

Slate reports that one victim, whose full name and contact information were uploaded to a revenge porn site, went on to legally change her name only to have the press exploit her decision, and thus, well, expose her even more. As Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami put it, "Civil suits put all the burden on victims." According to Franks, a great percentage of those who see no problem in posting these images argue in favor of the First Amendment. Asking them to further explain why it falls under said umbrella, and why it's wrong to pass a law forbidding it, pushes them into a corner that they can't get out of. "When you ask them how this violates the First Amendment, they can’t tell you why.”

Right now, a bill is currently circling around the government in California that would make it a misdemeanor for someone to post revenge porn. The catch here (because there's always a catch) is that the misdemeanor charge would only apply if the photo was posted with the intent of causing emotional distress. Oh, and according to Salon, you can consider the charges all but dropped if the image posted was a selfie. It hardly addresses the issue of consent.

End Revenge Porn is a site proposing a better law, one that doesn't "trivialize the harm against women." It argues that consenting to a photo within a private relationship does not mean consenting to public disclosure. Of course, there is the whole issue of a photo's rights being thrown out the window once published, and what exactly constitutes a private relationship, but the heart of the argument is clear. Posting without consent (similar to a model release form) should be illegal, no matter what platform it spreads through. As it stands, the prospects of a law being passed in the near future are slim. The best means of action are to think twice before sending anything, and act up and mouth off. The more voices there are, the louder the need for protection becomes. (Slate)