New Federal Legislation Could Take a Nip Out of 'Revenge Porn'

Internet activists worry that forthcoming proposal could ruin free speech, along with bitter exs.

Maryland Del. Jon Cardin, a Democrat, and policy advocates announce a bill to ban "revenge porn" during a news conference on Oct. 30, 2013, in Baltimore. State laws cannot force the take-down of online content, so advocates plan to introduce federal legislation.
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Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., signed into law his state's ban on "revenge porn" Oct. 1, inspiring a wave of proposals elsewhere. Self-shot photos are not covered by the California law and victims must prove emotional distress. Franks says she's working with a California legislator to reverse the caveats, and says she's helping legislators in seven other states write bills.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., publicly expressed interest in a federal law, Franks said, but neither is the forthcoming bill's sponsor.

"This is not really a new phenomenon, but the phenomenon of victims being brave enough to come forward is new and hard for the mainstream public to ignore," she said. "We're in the middle of that momentum and this is the best time we could possibly do it. That being said, there are some pretty powerful forces on the other side who are going to be raising objections to this – so it's anyone's guess who is going to win out."

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