This Bill Would Make Revenge Porn a Federal Crime

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Senator Kamala Harris. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Revenge porn, the nonconsensual sharing of private or explicit images, might soon be a federal crime. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Ending Nonconsenual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act to address the issue of revenge porn, which has gained increasing attention after a nude photo of GOP congressman Joe Barton was shared last week without his consent. The bill was put forward by Senators Kamala Harris, Richard Burr (who may or may not have hit himself in the eye with a crowbar) and Amy Klobuchar, and Representative Jackie Speier.

“Perpetrators of exploitation who seek to humiliate and shame their victims must be held accountable,” Senator Harris said in a press release to TechCrunch. “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.”

The ENOUGH Act is based largely on The Intimate Privacy Protection Act, a bill Representative Speier introduced in 2016, but was never passed. Currently, revenge porn is illegal in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and soon, New York City.

While ENOUGH might be able to help curb incidences of revenge porn (a 2016 study found that four percent of Americans had explicit images of themselves disseminated online without their consent) some critics have expressed concern that the bill puts the burden of proof on the victim instead of the perpetrator. According to the current bill, for an individual to be prosecuted, there must be proof that they both knew the victim expected the images to remain private, and that they would be negatively impacted by the sharing of the images. Still, the bill is an important step forward in what has long been a murky corner of the law.

“The damage caused by these attacks can crush careers, tear apart families, and, in the worst cases, has led to suicide,” Representative Speier said. “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.”

This Bill Would Make Revenge Porn a Federal Crime