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It's the moment survivors have been waiting for: After more than two years after deliberation, representative Jackie Speier finally introduced her federal revenge porn law to Congress on July 14.

"Revenge porn," at least in this case, refers to distributing depictions of naked person, or person engaged in a sexual activity, with "reckless disregard for the person’s lack of consent to the distribution." Notable examples include Rihanna, who saw nude pictures leaked online shortly after her breakup with Chris Brown, or Kim Kardashian, who sued after her sex tape was leaked without her consent.  

"It's a complex issue and we wanted to get it right," Speier told U.S. News & World Report of the long drafting process.

And with good reason.

Revenge porn effects almost a quarter of U.S. women, by some reports, leaving traces of their personal lives across the internet.

“The congresswoman has met with many victims who have described how the abuse destroyed their careers, derailed educational plans, ripped apart their families; and caused many to consider killing themselves,” a spokesman for Speier told Revelist. “And the worst part is once the information is put out there, there is no going back. It remains in the online universe forever."


Under Speier’s bill, these crimes would be punishable by up to five years in jail. Thirty-four states and the District of Colombia already have anti-revenge-porn laws, but this would be the first federal statue.

Some civil liberties advocates, however, say the bill goes too far; infringing on first amendment rights to free speech.

“Clearly there is a problem [with revenge porn] and yes, in addressing this problem, there is an impact an first amendment rights,” Michael W. Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told Revelist.

According to Macleod-Ball, it is the responsibility of legislators in such cases to draft the legislation as narrowly as possible, to keep from restricting citizens’ rights. The ACLU thinks this bill is an overly-broad solution to a legitimate problem.

But Charlotte Laws, an outspoken anti-revenge-porn activist, says it’s important to remember that there are exceptions to the first amendent. Libel and hate speech, for example, are not protected forms of speech.

“Free speech is about public matters,” Laws told Revelist. “It is about voicing legitimate concerns in society. Nude and sexually explicit pictures of non-consenting victims is different; it is a private matter.”

The ACLU is arguing for a specific fix to this bill — which they successfully added to a similar law in Arizona this year. Macleod-Ball says that requiring prosecutors to prove “malicious intent” of the defendant in revenge porn cases would scale back the overly-broad bill. He believes this would protect people who don’t intend any harm — who maybe "made a mistake," or were "trying to make a joke and misinterpreted it — from overzealous prosecution."

A spokesman for Speier told Revelist they reject this change, as it would leave out cases where revenge was not the primary motive, but harm was still caused.

"Nonconsensual pornography is not always about revenge (which is why we say the revenge porn label is inaccurate)," her office said, "but it always about privacy."

Macleod-Ball said the ACLU is not considering action against the bill at this time, leaving Speier's bill to make it past an even more formidable opponent: a grid-locked Congress.