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Revenge Porn: Victims Searching for Relief from Public Humiliation

By Nottage and Ward on November 7, 2013

Imagine receiving a phone call that people in your town have been overheard talking about you because they have seen naked pictures of you online. You immediately wonder how that is possible because you have never posted any pictures of that nature to any online source.

The way something like this could happen, and continues to happen every day, is through a new movement called “involuntary pornography” or “revenge porn.” Revenge porn is when an ex-lover posts nude or sexual photos online without the other parties’ consent.

Revenge porn has become very popular in the past few years due mainly to that idea that “we have set this trend of public humiliation and public shaming as a way to take down your rival,” says Erica Johnston, a lawyer for victims of revenge porn. Shame and humiliation are very real and painful side effects of this type of website, as the subject’s real name, city and state, and often links to social media profiles are included with the posted pictures. These websites have been able to stay up and seemingly thrive because of the wording in a section of the Federal Communications Decency Act, Section 230 grants website operators’ immunity from lawsuits over their user’s speech – a measure intended to preserve online free speech.

The problem with shutting down these websites comes with the protection of free speech. Section 230 is cited in almost every lawsuit brought against these website operators as the defense of why it’s allowable. Only two states have made this act illegal, New Jersey and California, and it is common for the police to be of little or no help in other states because they don’t consider a law to be broken unless the picture is of someone under the age of 18. The one saving grace comes from copyright laws. If the picture that was posted was taken by the subject in the picture, a selfie, the person automatically has a copyright on that picture and can demand the website take it down.

Many lawyers and advocates are working to create laws to try to put an end to this type of harassment and public shaming; however, it is still a challenge to word this legislature just right so that the First Amendment is still protected, no matter how obscene the content. While this problem is far from solved, bringing awareness to revenge porn can teach others to not take or share these types of photographs.

At Nottage & Ward, our legal team is dedicated to protecting the rights and well-being of Illinois residents in the wake of a relationship ending. To learn more about your rights during a divorce, call our attorneys at (312) 332-2915 and receive a no-cost consultation on your rights courses of legal action.

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Posted in: Separation

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