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What is “Revenge Porn”?

December 23, 2022

Uncategorized

I’ve spent over a decade working to protect my clients’ privacy and give them control back after being subjected to sexual misconduct and harassment. 

When something like this happens to you, it’s normal to feel alone and afraid. That’s where I come in.

My clients experience significant relief and freedom because they know I’m there to brainstorm the next step, Google their name to make sure nothing unwanted pops up, and do the mental and emotional work for them so they can focus on school, work, and life.

Let me do the stressful work for you – so you can get back to living your life.

Hi, I'm Lindsay.

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First, a note from Lindsay: I hate the term “revenge porn” because sharing another person’s intimate photos or videos most often has nothing to do with “revenge” and certainly has nothing to do with porn, which is consensual sexual activity performed on screen for profit. (Or at least that’s what porn is supposed to be). Other bad terms include “nonconsensual pornography,” which is problematic because of the inclusion of the word “pornography,” and “digital image abuse,” which is vague and unclear. But, the lack of clear and appropriate names for sexual offenses will be explored in another blog another day. Stay tuned.

“Revenge porn” has recently appeared in the news all over the world. In England, reality star Stephen Bear was convicted of sharing a sex video of his ex-girlfriend Georgia Harrison, after he sent the video to friends and later uploaded it onto Onlyfans.com. In the U.S., dating app companies are taking steps to help their users who have become victims or believe they may become victims by partnering with STOPNCII.org to assign “hashes” or digital fingerprints to intimate content and prevent it from being uploaded to their platforms. Israel is also working towards ending “revenge porn” and has released STOPNCII.org technology in Hebrew.  

Revenge porn is the distribution of naked photographs or videos of another person without the consent of the person depicted. This usually occurs after an online or offline intimate encounter and often has devastating effects on the person exposed. 

It’s not just about sending someone else’s naked photos to one or two people through direct message or email. Most nonconsensual “pornography” winds up on reputation damaging or porn websites where it can go viral and be difficult to remove. The harm escalates when a wrongdoer attaches the person’s name, contact information, and social media accounts to their intimate content, which happens often. It can be sent to family, friends, teachers, employers and cause great harm to a person’s reputation, job prospects, and personal relationships. Oftentimes victims of revenge porn suffer serious emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and worse. 

“Revenge porn” is rampant and has been since technologies have allowed us to easily share photographs and videos. Women and girls are most often victims. Until recently, it wasn’t even criminal in most states. Now, all but two states, Massachusetts and South Carolina, have laws criminalizing the act, but sadly, there are still obstacles survivors face. 

For instance, often, someone might not realize that what’s happened to them is a crime and that there is legal recourse available. When they pursue a case, law enforcement may lack the training to recognize the crime, investigate, and pursue charges. Moreover, it’s usually challenging to deanonymize the disseminators, and websites have no direct legal or financial reason to help those who are trying to stop the abuse, because they are immunized from liability for the acts of their users thanks to a 1990s era law called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law prevents victims from obtaining justice. 

That’s why it’s so important that offenders, like Stephen Bear, are being prosecuted and convicted for sharing intimate content and that tech companies, like Bumble and Tinder, are taking steps towards protecting their users in this way. 

Despite these obstacles and the small improvements we’re seeing in this space, there are still options for victims of “revenge porn.” I help victims get their intimate photos and videos off the internet and regain control over their content. I advocate for law enforcement action, obtain orders of protection for clients, negotiate pre-litigation settlements, and bring legal action against offenders.

As a privacy attorney and consultant, I strongly believe that companies and law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to improve their practices. And we have a right to retain control of our most intimate content.

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