It’s upsetting and stressful to find an unconsented image of oneself posted on any website, let alone an intimate photo which was given to a past boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse in confidence.

 

Social media networks allow people to share their photos, videos, thoughts and opinions to hundreds of millions worldwide. While it may seem like “anything goes” in terms of the breadth and depth of topics and images posted, the truth is offensive photos or video that could be construed as pornography is against most social media sites’policies. Yahoo is one such medium that will not tolerate any abuse. “We are committed to providing an enjoyable and harassment-free experience on our network, and as part of that commitment, nonconsensual pornography is not tolerated,” according to Yahoo policies.

One of the most disturbing types of posts is called “revenge porn.” This occurs when the perpetrator posts pornographic images or video of another person without that person’s permission. This can be extremely damaging to the victim as often times the images are syndicated to hundreds or other sites. The perpetrator often means to harm the victim through harassment, blackmail and even embarrassment. Even third parties who see the offending images can pose harm and try to physically harm or blackmail the victim.

 

When such photo was taken in a private location or provided to the other person with the understanding that the image was for “his or her eyes only,” only to be later found in the dark corners of the Internet – feelings of betrayal and embarrassment will undeniably arise. To top it all off, such photos are now commonly being posted on revenge websites – including cheater reporting and revenge porn websites – implying you acted promiscuously, unfaithfully, or committed other egregious acts.

That’s when embarrassment transforms into sheer horror, and it becomes time to consult an experienced revenge porn removal attorney.

 

While loved ones and other reasonable persons will react to finding out about such in an understanding manner, it can still have severe consequences on your social, personal, and professional life. Unfortunately, with the Internet, things have a way of circulating and disseminated to people you’d rather not have know about such things – whether it family, friends, or colleagues.

 

It’s time to stamp out the wildfire before it spreads further and embeds itself in the inner workings of the Internet.

With the help of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), victims of revenge porn are able to file a report for copyright infringement when they find that images of them have been reposted without permission. For example, Twitter and Tumblr provide an easy-to-use form towards this end, and we wish that other social media companies would do the same (Facebook’s is a little convoluted and complicated, in our opinion). UnDox.Me also provides a helpful guide for major social media sites to assist with the removal of copyrighted images and the upholding of copyright law. Victims can also utilize Domain Tools to find contact information about specific site hosts and domains and contact them directly about taking images down via their “abuse@” email address.

 

Another helpful resource is Without My Consent,  a non-profit organization that focuses on providing advice and strategies to help combat online harassment. For example, they suggest that victims immediately work to create a physical portfolio (screenshots, printouts, downloads of videos, relevant texts or emails) of the dissemination and the events leading up to it for the purposes of evidence preservation and documentation. In addition, Without My Consent provides a Something Can Be Done! Guide, a detailed page entitled Conversations to Have With Your Lawyer, directions to obtain a Take Down, and steps to register a copyright on your images.

 

Registering your own copyright can provide substantial backing if a victim is considering filing a lawsuit for infringement, and can also give people the opportunity to censor out parts of their images under their copyright or their images in entirety. By copyrighting original works, people who involve themselves in taking nude photographs or videos can protect their property from being wrongly distributed or reposted by giving themselves the right to file for copyright infringement. This, then, expedites websites’ removal of problematic content, provides greater leverage against perpetrators, and provides an opportunity to collect damages ranging from $750 to $150,000 for each work that is infringed. However – and this is key- registration is not required for victims who wish to bring a lawsuit and decide to forego any claims of copyright. According to Without My Consent, victims can choose to rely on existing state law claims like invasion of privacy, confidentiality, emotional distress, harassment, and stalking. Whether to file for copyright or build a case around existing state laws should be decided in consultation with an attorney. This said, hiring a lawyer can cost thousands of dollars and is not a solution that many victims are able to pursue.

 

Revenge porn is actually a misnomer, as most times, there is no revenge or extortion motive at all – just ill-will and maliciousness.

 

In fact, most revenge porn cases involve parties who don’t even know each other and the sites in question have little to no connection to the victims. Look no further than the iCloud leaks of celebrities in 2014, where a collection of nearly 500 private celebrity pictures were leaked after targeted phishing attacks. The event was dubbed “The Fappening” and “Celebgate,” and was perpetrated by complete strangers.

 

To date, 38 states have laws against nonconsensual porn, but a careful review illuminates a meaningful lack in uniformity and unambiguity (see our State Sexting Laws page for more information). Most outlaw the “dissemination of intimate images” because of the lack of consent from the affected party, while some states recognize the behavior as an act of cyberharassment and stalking, and prohibit it in that respect. Generally speaking, each state’s statute is different in classifying exactly what is unlawful. Using Florida law as an example (passed in November 2015, which makes the act a 1st degree misdemeanor and 3rd degree felony for repeat offenders), the state defines sexual cyberharassment as publishing a sexually explicit image of a person that conveys the personal identification information of the depicted person without the person’s consent and for the purpose of causing substantial emotional distress. New Jersey, the first state to pass a law against nonconsensual porn, considers it a 3rd degree invasion of privacy if someone discloses any image in which intimate parts of another are exposed, and defines “disclosure” as selling, manufacturing, giving, providing, mailing, delivering, or advertising an image. The state of Virginia categorizes their law under crimes involving morals and decency, and considers it the unlawful dissemination or sale of images of another. Specifically, they have ruled that anyone who disseminates or depicts another person who is totally nude, or is exposing genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast when they are not authorized to do so is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

 

A 2013 survey conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative – a nonprofit organization fighting against revenge porn – shed further light on the very victims affected by non-consensual pornography. The survey encompassed over 350 victims, finding 90% of the victims were women, and almost 60% of the cases involved the posting of non-consensual photographs by an ex-boyfriend. Also, most of the victims had taken the photos themselves.

 

The impact on almost nearly every victim’s life was substantial, with over 82% citing that the publishing of such intimate photos had triggered significant hardship and impairment in their social or professional lives. Additionally, 42% sought psychological help, while 3% ended up legally changing their name.

Revenge porn is a form of cyber harassment and online bullying, and the effects are substantial because not only does it take a social and professional toll on persons, it is also emotionally damaging to victims.

 

Online defamation has potential to not only affect your personal reputation, but your professional reputation too. Online defamation doesn’t discriminate and can happen to anyone.

Just remember, proactivity is key when dealing with online defamation, therefore it’s important to stay vigilant and act as soon as you are alerted of any defamatory posts or content.

Unfortunately we live in a day and age when unfounded attacks and baseless information on the Internet is taken more seriously than word of mouth or in person conversations.

 

Below are just a few of the consequences that defamatory and libelous online comments and malicious attacks can have on your reputation.

 

  • Frayed and destroyed social relationships or loss of friends,

  • Loss of a job & future employment opportunities,

  • Failure to be considered for a promotion,

  • Ostracization and ridicule from the community,

  • Loss of sponsorships, scholarships, or other funding,

  • Difficulties in the character & fitness portion of professional licensing,

  • Loss of loyal customers & other business.

  • Having to close down your business.

 

On top of destruction of relationships and job opportunities, online defamation can also have severe consequences and effects on your physical health, including:

  • Anxiety, depression & low self-esteem,

  • Insomnia, physical illness, & paranoia, & even

  • Physical harm caused by third-parties.

 

Keep in mind that these are only just a few of the consequences and damages that online libel and defamation may cause. In reality, defamation can have lasting effects on literally every part of your life and how others perceive you. It really stands to break not only a person’s mental health, but physical health as well.No federal law has been established regarding nonconsensual porn, but the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative continues to work closely with state legislatures to pass laws against nonconsensual porn, and have been personally responsible for drafting over a dozen laws in various states. Currently, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina have bills pending in legislation. New Hampshire’s law classifies the behavior as a Class B felony and goes into effect on July 18th of this year. s also a new addition to states that have laws against nonconsensual porn.

 

Minnesota’s law goes into effect a couple weeks later on August 1st, and considers it a Gross Misdemeanor. It is clear that revenge porn remains a top agenda item for legislators across the United States; the CCRI worked with California congresswoman Jackie Speier to proposal a federal law in this area in 2015 entitled the Intimate Privacy Protection Act. In my professional opinion, I believe it will come to pass after Congress and the powers that be sort out the First Amendment implications (for a great discussion on this, please see Pace Law Professor John Humbach’s paper on this from September 2014 entitled The Constitution and Revenge Porn).

 

Major Internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have (rightfully) taken a strong stance against the problem and have, for example, worked with California’s Attorney General to outline best practices to help remove revenge porn found on their networks.