Revenge Porn: A Breakdown

Recently, many social media sites, including Reddit and Blogger, have been changing their privacy guidelines to prohibit the non-consensual posting of nude photos. These actions come a year after stolen nude photos of multiple celebrities were posted online. While many are encouraged by the stand social media sites seem to be taking, others have voiced concerns about the feasibility of monitoring sites with over two million users.

Some of the nude pictures posted on these sites come from women who have been hacked. Others are posted as”revenge porn”. In a broad definition, revenge porn is the distribution of intimate photos to either porn sites, social media sites, or amongst unintended recipients, without the consent of the person in the photo.

Usually, the original photo was sent with consent during a relationship. A survey of teens by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that 20% of teens (13-19) and 33% of young adults (20-26) have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. A 2012 survey showed that 1 in 10 people have had an ex threaten to leak nude photos and that 60% of the time they followed through with the action.

Many people are quick to point out that the problem here is not that people are sharing nude photos. The issue is the way our society views and handles sex. Misogyny, perceived sexual norms, and power imbalances all play a part. We live in a world where a naked body can be used as a weapon against a person. Female and male.

Comprehensive solutions for revenge porn call for a shift in the way our society thinks. But for victims of revenge porn, this long term solution offers no solace. Unfortunately, legal help is hard to come by in most cases.

Currently, New Jersey is the only state which has a criminal offense which covers this act specifically. Most states have laws which may protect a victim if other criminal conduct is involved, such as voyeurism, extortion, criminal harassment, or defamatory libel. However, in most revenge porn cases, these other criminal elements are not present.

A Harvard Law panel suggested the tort of public disclosure of private facts as the most reasonable legal road. While it varies state to state, the tort primarily says “the material in question must be private, must not be a matter of public concern, and must be disclosed publicly in a way that would be offensive to a reasonable person”. Unfortunately, this tort is a civil offense, which means the victim must bear the burden of pressing charges and following suit.

Victims of revenge porn are not without options, but they are few and sometimes costly. Social media sites are certainly taking a step in the right direction, and we can hope they will follow through with their monitoring. Addressing the issue and opening it for discussion is the first step in finding the root of the problem, and working to change it.