WASHINGTON. D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, Congressman John Katko (R-NY), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) today introduced the Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution Act of 2022 (the “SHIELD Act”) in recognition of International Women’s Day. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation seeks to address the exploitation of private, sexually explicit or nude images often referred to as “revenge porn” or “nonconsensual pornography.” Rep. Speier introduced the very first bill to tackle this harmful and widespread issue nearly six years ago with the Intimate Privacy Protection Act (IPPA) of 2016.

“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,” Rep. Speier said. “Many predators have gleefully acknowledged the majority of their victims have no way of fighting back. The internet knows no state boundaries, neither should victims’ rights. The SHIELD Act addresses these gaping legal holes due to a patchwork of state laws and gives survivors the ability to fight back and protect themselves.”

“The nonconsensual sharing of intimate imagery without legal recourse is unacceptable, carrying severe consequences that transcend digital platforms and place lives at risk,” Rep. Katko said. “As a former prosecutor, I can speak directly to the importance of enacting substantive and consistent laws to ensure justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes. With that in mind, I am proud to join Congresswoman Speier in reintroducing our bipartisan measure, the SHIELD Act, which would establish commonsense privacy protections to prohibit the widespread, nonconsensual distribution of intimate imagery. This important legislation ensures our nation’s privacy laws are keeping pace with modern demands for online safety.”

“We need to provide victims of online abuse with the legal protection they deserve and hold their exploiters accountable,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This important legislation does just that, helping to ensure that these serious privacy violations will no longer go unpunished.”

The SHIELD 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, sexually explicit or nude 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.

Prosecution under the SHIELD Act would require proving that the defendant was aware of a substantial risk that the person depicted in an image expected it would remain private and that they did not give consent to its distribution. A prosecutor would also have to prove that no reasonable person would consider the shared image to touch on a matter of public concern.

Although 48 states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes in this area, they offer incomplete and inconsistent coverage.

Quotes from supporting organizations are listed below:

"We are proud to have worked closely with Congresswoman Speier’s office on this important legislation. Nonconsensual pornography is a devastating form of abuse that causes immediate and often irreparable harm to victims’ privacy, reputation, and freedom of expression. Its impact is particularly severe on women and girls, who suffer disproportionately from image-based sexual abuse and its negative consequences. We hope that Congress will move quickly to provide victims with a path to justice and to deter future abuses,” said Dr. Mary Anne Franks, President and Legislative & Tech Policy Director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

“Make no mistake: using explicit, private images for the purposes of blackmail or ‘revenge porn’ is a pervasive form of intimate partner violence,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “We know the lengths that an abuser will go to maintain control over their victim. The SHIELD Act, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. John Katko, is an important step towards helping survivors protect their privacy, get justice, and keep themselves safe.”

“The SHIELD Act is a significant step forward in establishing clear federal protections for victims of revenge porn while upholding free speech rights for all Americans. The legislation will criminalize this particularly pernicious form of online abuse and make the Internet a safer space for the exchange of ideas and commerce,” said Daniel Castro, Vice President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “With this bill, Congress has a chance to crack down on the harm caused when abusers and harassers distribute private, explicit images of individuals without their consent. We thank Congresswoman Speier for her leadership on this issue.”

“In a world where smart phones and devices 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 over 40 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 Bill Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations.

"With teens spending more time online than ever, more girls are becoming victims of non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit images, or 'revenge porn.' It is long past time for this devastating breach of safety and privacy to be criminalized at the federal level—it is critical to the safety and privacy of all concerned, particularly women and girls, who are 1.7 times more likely to fall victim to the exploitation of private, sexually explicit or nude images. We applaud Congresswoman Speier and her colleagues for their leadership on this important issue," said Dr. Stephanie Hull, President and CEO, Girls Inc.

The SHIELD Act is cosponsored in the House of Representatives by 64 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. They are Reps. Colin Allred (TX-32), Cindy Axne (IA-03), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Andre Carson (IN-07), Sean Casten (IL-06), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Jim Costa (CA-16), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Suzan Delbene (WA-01), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Chuy Garcia (IL-04), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), William R. Keating (MA-09), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Annie Kuster (NH-02), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07),  Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Stacey E. Plaskett, Katie Porter (CA-45), David Price (NC-04), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jim Cooper (TN-05), Grace Meng (NY-06), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Carlos Gimenez (FL-26), John Carter (TX-31), Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Ayana Pressley (MA-07), Bill Foster (IL-11), Danny Davis (IL-07), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Darren Soto (FL-09), and Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44).

A copy of the bill text is attached below.

 

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