'Revenge Porn': Why the Legal System Fails to Stop It

Activists say laws must be written very carefully

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 7, 2013 4:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Just why is "revenge porn" proliferating across the Internet? Not only because scumbag ex-boyfriends are so easy to come by, Salon reports. Activists say people get away with posting photos of women in various states of undress because the legal system hasn't caught up. In civil law, website operators can't be charged for content submitted by others, and even if those submitters are found, "they're just basement dwellers," says activist Erica Johnstone. "So, you might end up with a six-figure judgment that the plaintiff can never collect."

Criminal laws give people more recourse, but police may not always know about them. "Cops don't understand, they aren't trained," says a law professor. "They just want women to turn off their computers." Even when laws are passed, they can contain glaring loopholes, like allowing for photos taken in a public place. A New Jersey statute used in the Tyler Clementi case may provide the best blueprint, because it covers photos containing intimate parts or sexual contact without a person's consent. But it's a difficult balancing act: "There’s a very fine line between invasion of privacy and free speech," says Johnstone.

Revenge porn is proliferating, and activists say they know why.
Revenge porn is proliferating, and activists say they know why.   (Shutterstock)
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