What Is Revenge Porn?

Revenge Porn Laws

Revenge porn is an increasingly serious problem in the age of digital photography and social media. It is classified as a cybercrime and seen as an act of cyberbullying. Revenge porn, by definition, is the intentional distribution of nonconsensual, sexually explicit photos of another person. Often, these are derived from sexting. These photos are typically posted online by a current or former partner in an act of revenge against the victim. There are cases where photos are obtained by a hacker and posted without permission. There are laws in place to protect individuals. However, the many legal ramifications of revenge porn are still being determined. This is based on the long-term and aggravated nature of the effects of this type of crime on its victims.

The Facts About Revenge Porn

Two important factors of revenge porn are the act perpetrated against the individual and the distribution of photos online. The acts against persons are covered by individual state laws defining the various criminal statutes and by civil litigation that determines the right of individuals to seek compensation or recovery for personal damages.

As the photos are sometimes posted by third parties on websites, this can be a complicated legal process that allows the owners of those websites to employ specific sections of federal law to challenge legal responsibility. Laws defining revenge porn are relatively new, and many are still being changed and expanded as this crime becomes more prevalent.

Plaintiffs in these cases who are unable to get photos removed from websites by personal appeals may need to sue the person who distributed the materials and any parties who post the photos to their social media sites or other public spaces.

Important Federal Implications Surrounding Revenge Porn Laws

In order to understand the scope of this crime, it is important to clarify how revenge porn intersects with current and proposed federal regulations. The protection of both individual and company rights overlaps in precarious ways.

First Amendment

One important area is determined by the first amendment, which guarantees the right of free speech. For example, a news company may publish explicit photos as part of a sex crime investigation. This could be justified as a legitimate use in terms of public interest.

Communications Decency Act

Revenge porn sites have used Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to defend their actions. This federal law gives immunity from prosecution to websites for content posted to their sites by third parties. This edict may be challenged if the webmaster or the website assists with the conveyance, publication or edits and development of the photos.

Malicious Deep Fake Prohibition Act

Technology exists that allows one person’s head to be imposed on another person’s body resulting in what is called a deepfake image. Deepfake pornography legislation was introduced by Congress in 2018 but did not become a federal law. This act of revenge porn is complicated by the fact the photo is not of a real person. A prosecutor must prove the recognition of a plaintiff’s face by a viewer, so without the proof of this essential detail, it is difficult to show how harm was done.

Lawsuit Considerations for Revenge Porn

Revenge porn is a problem for people of both sexes and varying ages, but many incidents are reported by teens and young adults. This crime is predominantly perpetrated against young girls and women.

As of 2019, 46 states have passed laws criminalizing revenge porn acts. If you are a victim, it’s important to know the legal process.

Police Report

The first step is to file a report by calling or visiting a police department. Police will investigate the crime, and if charges are warranted, the case will then be referred to the court system.

Representation

If your case is referred to a prosecutor, seek an attorney to represent you immediately. These cases are uniquely complicated, so filings need to be carefully handled from the start.

Criminal Case

For now, criminal cases are governed by state laws. Currently, many states deem first acts as misdemeanors, punishable by jail time and fines. Additional violations could result in felony charges, which can bring longer incarceration and heavier fines. Some states make first convictions a felony. An example is in Illinois, where a defendant is charged with a felony for their first act and, if convicted, the plaintiff can seek economic and punitive damages in a civil action.

Though laws differ by state, these are common areas of agreement about what constitutes the crime of revenge porn used by a person with the intent to harass or annoy another person:

  • Shows the genitalia, female breast or anus of a person
  • Distributes or publishes digital or printed photographs, videos or films of a person
  • Shows a person engaging in a sexual act

Civil Litigation

Some states allow victims to seek civil damages. These damages are usually awarded as follows:

  • Monetary: These are damage claims based on emotional and reputitional harm.
  • Statutory: These are set amounts based on each violation.
  • Punitive: These help pay for attorney’s fees and cost related to the lawsuit and are intended to punish the defendant.
  • Injunctive Relief: A court can order a defendant to destroy photographs, take down websites and refrain from causing further harm.

Additionally, victims may receive a damage finding that allows them to get financial reimbursement equal to the defendant’s gain from a posted image or images.

Legal Representation

Due to the complications involved in these types of cases and the burden of proof needed in litigating intent, personal harm and the removal of photographic materials, victims of these acts need experienced legal representation.

States have widely varying laws related to revenge-porn suits, so individuals need to discuss with an attorney how their case might proceed given where they reside.

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

Revenge porn is a crime with insidious and ongoing concerns. In addition to the crime itself, victims report being harassed and stalked by persons who have seen their photos online.

Obtaining an experienced criminal attorney is the first step, so you have the necessary representation to protect your rights. You may also need to hire a civil attorney who will litigate personal damages and assist you with the removal of images from the internet or file other legal actions. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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