There's Finally A Bill To Fight Perpetrators Of Revenge Porn

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Nude photo leaks of celebrities — including Blac Chyna, Jennifer Lawrence, and Rihanna — might have brought revenge porn into the public eye, but A-listers are far from the only people to be affected. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, at least one in every eight social media users — or 13% of Internet users — have dealt with threats or been the victims of nonconsensual photo sharing.

However, despite the disturbing prevalence of this form of digital sexual violence, federal legislation to hold perpetrators accountable has thus far been lacking. Currently, regulations vary in severity from state to state, and some states have no regulations at all.

A new bipartisan bill, introduced today by U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris, Richard Burr, and Amy Klobuchar, alongside Representative Jackie Speier, aims to address that gap in the justice system. If passed, the Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment Act, or the ENOUGH Act for short, would make it illegal to "knowingly distribute a private, visual depiction of an individual intimate parts or of an individual engaging in sexually explicit conduct" without consent.

This isn't the first time Senator Harris has sought to bring justice to those affected by revenge porn. In 2015, Harris, then the attorney general of California, led the first criminal prosecution of a cyber-exploitation website operator in the U.S. — the operator was sentenced to 18 years in prison. She also created an eCrime unit to prosecute cyber crimes.

Still, although California and 37 other states, plus DC, have made progress and put some form of legislation in place, bringing a case could be expensive. Congresswoman Speier addressed this challenge in a press release announcing the act:

"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. 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 also found backing within the tech community: Facebook, Twitter, and Snap Inc. all offered their support. (Facebook previously released tools intended to combat nonconsensual photo sharing.)

The bill does include some stipulations that could make it difficult to prosecute the image sharer: The person depicted in the photo would need to prove that the perpetrator knew it was intended to be a private photo, that consent was not given, and that the sharing could cause harm. In other words, there would need to be records showing those things to be true.

If a photo of yourself is shared without your consent, the most important thing to do is document it by taking screenshots. Then, report the photo to the site administrator and head here for state-specific legislative information. If you would like to speak with a counselor, call the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative's crisis helpline at 844-878-2274.

Update: November 28: This piece has been updated to reflect a revised statistic from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.