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Rep Speier and Sens Harris, Burr, and Klobuchar Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Online Exploitation of Private Images

November 28, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON. D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today introduced the Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation seeks to address the malicious exploitation of private, explicit images, frequently referred to as “revenge porn” and “sextortion.” Rep. Speier introduced the very first version of this bill in the 114th Congress, the Intimate Privacy Protection Act (IPPA) of 2016.

“For victims of nonconsensual pornography, technology today makes it possible to destroy a person’s life with the click of a button or a tap on a cell phone. The damage caused by these attacks can crush careers, tear apart families, and, in the worst cases, has led to suicide,” Congresswoman Speier said. “What makes these acts even more despicable is that many predators have gleefully acknowledged that the vast majority of their victims have no way to fight back. Even in states that have laws on the books, the average person can’t afford to take on these predators in civil courts. Worse are the numerous victims who have mustered the courage and strength to pursue criminal charges, only to learn there is no law that protects them. The ENOUGH Act will fix this gaping hole in our legal system.”

The ENOUGH Act would:

  • Ensure that the Department of Justice has an appropriate and effective tool to address these serious privacy violations.
  • Narrowly establish federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, explicit images without consent.
  • Strike an effective balance between protecting the victims of these serious privacy violations and ensuring that vibrant online speech is not burdened. A prosecution under the ENOUGH Act would require proving that the defendant was aware of a substantial risk that the victim expected the image would remain private and that the sharing could cause harm to the victim. A prosecution would also have to prove that no reasonable person would consider the shared image to touch on a matter of public concern.

The ENOUGH Act is cosponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Walter Jones (R-NC), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Tom Rooney (R-FL).

Quotes from the bicameral cosponsors and groups that support the act are listed below:

“Victims of nonconsensual pornography have had their lives turned upside down and often feel desperate, trapped, and isolated,” said Rep. Clark. “Protecting them means our laws must catch up with the realities of an online world in which millions are navigating their personal and professional lives.”

“The nonconsensual sharing of private images can be very damaging to careers and families. Some individuals have even taken their own lives. That is why the ENOUGH Act is so important,” said Rep. Costello. “While Pennsylvania and other states have passed laws to address nonconsensual pornography, this legislation would go a step further, and establish necessary and appropriate federal standards for responding to these criminal acts.”

“The consequences of nonconsensual pornography are real: devastated careers, broken families, and shattered lives.” said Rep. Meehan. “There should be penalties for exploiting victims and this legislation will ensure that the perpetrators of these acts will have to pay the price.”

“In this digital age, people can become victims of sexual harassment in an instant, turning their whole lives upside down," said Rep. Meeks. "Since Rep. Jackie Speier and I first began working on federal legislation four years ago to address the problem of nonconsensual pornography, scores of states have enacted statutes to combat this atrocious practice. It’s about time the US Congress does the same at the federal level.”

"We, here in Congress, must continuously work to make sure our laws protect victims from these new risks,” said Rep. Rooney. “The ENOUGH Act establishes a federal criminal penalty for individuals who share private and explicit images without consent.”

“Perpetrators of exploitation who seek to humiliate and shame their victims must be held accountable. It is long past time for the federal government to take action to give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on these crimes,” said Senator Harris

“It’s time to update the law and ensure that individuals who maliciously exploit the private information and images of their victims are held accountable under criminal statute. New technologies can make our lives better, but they also open a new platform for abuse and exploitation. Congress needs to help our laws adapt to this new era and this bill will provide the tools needed to stop these acts,” said Senator Burr.

“As a former prosecutor, I know the importance of a victim-centered approach in the fight against online exploitation. Our bipartisan legislation ensures that we put the needs of victims of nonconsensual online exploitation first and provide law enforcement with resources to help bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” said Senator Klobuchar.

Additionally, the Enough Act is supported by the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars, including Dean Erwin Chemerinsky; technology and telecom industry leaders, including Facebook and Twitter; law enforcement agencies, including the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys and National District Attorneys Association; and women’s rights and family issues organizations, such as NOW and the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

“Facebook supports the bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Speier and Costello as well as Sens. Harris and Burr to outlaw the use of intimate content to intentionally shame, embarrass or control someone. Around the country, states have passed legislation to criminalize this abhorrent practice. We stand with safety and consumer advocates in pushing for the same at the federal level,” said Erin Egan, VP of US Public Policy, Facebook.

“In a world where smart phones and devises are used to record and transmit every moment in life, it is becoming increasingly important to protect against malicious sharing of private, explicit images. These online privacy violations exponentially and disproportionately target women and minors. While 35 states have enacted statutes in this area, federal intervention is necessary to provide complete and consistent coverage across state lines. This important bill would narrowly establish federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, explicit images without consent, while including civil liberty safeguards to ensure that only those who share with malicious intent are liable,” said William Johnson, Executive Director of National Association of Police Organizations

"We are grateful to the ENOUGH Act's bipartisan, bicameral supporters for protecting the victims of 'revenge porn,' ‘sextortion’ and other online crimes.  With sexual predators increasingly turning to the Internet to do harm, we need effective tools for addressing these serious privacy violations. We look forward to working with Congress to help pass this bill," said Rebecca O’Connor, Vice President of Public Policy, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

 A copy of the bill text can be found here, and a one-page summary of the bill can be found here.

 

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