Nonconsensual Pornography and Internet Privacy

Nonconsensual pornography is the distribution of sexual, compromising photographs or videos online without the victim’s consent. The photographs and videos may have been taken in secret, stolen through the hacking of emails and cellphones, or willingly shared with the perpetrator with the expectation that the content would remain private. In some cases, people may take this action because they are jealous of the victim or are motivated by anger and jealousy following a failed relationship or difficult break-up. In some cases, hackers and other individuals may attempt to hack or socially engineer accounts and then post sensitive photos online for money or simply for the trill of it. Nonconsensual pornography is deeply troubling and oftentimes humiliating. A growing number of victims must also deal with fear and anxiety when the perpetrator couples this online invasion of privacy with threats or when they are being harassed or stalked by strangers who saw their material posted. Internet privacy abuse extends far beyond revenge porn to include various forms of defamation, extortion, or unauthorized filming with hidden cameras. In some cases, the victims are lured into compromising situations and then photographed or filmed against their will.

What is revenge porn?

The most widely publicized and growing form of nonconsensual pornography is revenge porn, in part due to the popularity of sexting. When romance sours in the digital age, a person’s private pain can turn into a public nightmare if a vengeful ex-partner choses to retaliate by posting the victim’s explicit videos or photographs online. To date, there are over 2,000 revenge porn websites for perpetrators to utilize, along with the more traditional avenues, such as social media or simply forwarding the private images and videos directly to specific people, such as a victim’s parents, friends, or co-workers. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) is a nonprofit organization that provides victims of revenge porn and other forms of online abuse with emotional support, technical advice, information, and advocacy. In their 2017 national study, the group found that 1 in 8 American social media users have been targets of nonconsensual pornography, and women are 1.7 times more likely to be victimized than men.

Is revenge porn legal?

 Is revenge porn legal?

Federal laws

Unfortunately, a federal law, the Communications Decency Act §230, protects many websites and social media sites from civil liability by providing immunity to online intermediaries for material posted by third-party users. Because of this law, Google, Facebook and other platforms are not liable for the posting of nonconsensual porn, nor are they required to remove it from their networks. In November of 2017, a federal bill addressing this issue was introduced, but its status is still pending.

 

State laws

As of January 2018, 38 states and Washington, D.C. have criminal laws directly pertaining to nonconsensual pornography. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of state laws in combatting nonconsensual porn is dependent upon where the victim and perpetrator live and where someone was when they viewed the images. In addition, laws are often ambiguous, and what is considered unlawful differs widely from state to state. For information on a specific state’s laws pertaining to revenge porn, visit our state-by-state Revenge Porn Laws list and interactive map at https://www.minclaw.com/fighting-back-revenge-porn/.

 

What protection do federal and state laws provide to victims of nonconsensual porn?

Both federal and state laws are necessary to protect victims of nonconsensual porn. State laws are necessary to address conduct that does not cross state lines or implicate interstate commerce, while federal law is necessary for protection when state laws are limited by jurisdiction and/or the Communications Decency Act.

What are my options as a victim of nonconsensual porn?

Defamation Damages

Minc Law was one of the first firms to focus 100% of its practice on Internet privacy and Internet defamation. As a result, our attorneys understand the myriad of factors that can influence each individual’s case; are highly versed in the everchanging federal, state, and international laws pertaining to nonconsensual porn; and are one of the most experienced law firms in dealing with the removal of the unwanted material from the Internet.

 

Time is of the essence in any case involving revenge porn or invasion of online privacy. It is critical to take action before the damaging material goes viral. Minc Law’s attorneys act immediately to identify the source, remove the offensive material from the Internet, and punish the individuals responsible. When appropriate, we also file civil lawsuits for monetary damages and restraining orders against those who seized and distributed the material. In addition, if a crime has been committed, we will work with law enforcement to bring the guilty parties to justice.

 

Even when revenge porn is legal, many sites will agree to its removal.

Despite the limitations set by the Communications Decency Act and the inconsistency in state law protection, the rampant growth of nonconsensual porn and the community’s overwhelming outrage has persuaded several of the major platforms to develop terms of service (TOS) policies to help protect revenge porn victims. Even if a platform does not have relevant TOS policies in place, many networking sites will work with a lawyer who can show that the photo was posted without authorization. In cases where the image does not violate a site’s TOS and where the site is uncooperative, our attorneys can explain additional removal options pertinent to each individual case. Most importantly, we handle the entire removal process as empathetically and expediently as possible to minimize additional suffering and embarrassment.

 

Who can I hold liable for the unauthorized posting of my personal images and/or videos?

While it is possible to sue the poster of the images, it often takes work to uncover their identity. In many cases, the user may make use of “throwaway” accounts to post the offending media. However, through John Doe or Jane Doe lawsuits, our experienced attorneys often can secure a court order requiring the website to turn over the IP address of the poster. From there, the IP address can be linked through similar action with the relevant Internet service provider (ISP).

 

As a victim of nonconsensual porn, what actions should I take?

As a victim of revenge porn or other nonconsensual porn, it is imperative to act as quickly as possible to minimize the damage. The first step is to contact Minc Law to understand your rights and what steps can be taken. In addition, it is extremely important to document everything pertaining to the case. This documentation includes capturing and printing screen shots of all related postings; search engine results for your name; texts, emails or other messages; “friend” requests; and anything else pertinent to the case.

How do I get started?

At Minc Law, we believe that victims of revenge porn are not to blame, regardless of how the material was produced and published. We evaluate each case with discretion and empathy. You have the right to control your digital space and identity — as well as your photographs and videos.

If you or a loved one has been the target of revenge porn or other type of privacy intrusion, contact us today to learn more about our services and to discuss your specific matter.

 

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Contact us today for a confidential and free consultation to find out if we can help you with your case.

Minc Law works with online marketing experts to monitor and prevent intellectual property infringement and defamatory cyberattacks. Our team uses deep web search tools to help our clients monitor what is being said about them and discover unfair trade practice, counterfeiting, and infringement of intellectual property rights. Our team helps clients find out about these issues and address them before they get worse.  Contact us today at  (216) 373-7706or use the contact submission form.

 

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