Cyber Rape: Victim v. Freedom of Speech

Speak Up

The crime of “revenge porn” has unfortunately become a more prevalent problem, especially with the current borderless world that the Internet has created. On a global scale, many countries are reacting and criminalizing the act often referred to as “cyber-rape” or “non-consensual pornography.” For, example in the “Middle East nations these offenses can be prosecuted under indecency, anti-pornography, defamation, invasion of privacy and other laws.” Israel has also recently passed a law that imposes a five-year prison sentence on those convicted of revenge porn, or distributing sexual photographs without consent. A German court has also recently decided “erotic photos of a former partner are no longer protected under copyright laws.” According to the German decision, these photographs must be deleted upon request.

Legislatures in the United States and other Western countries have been hesitant about tackling these issues, until recently, because imposing such restrictions arguably conflicts with freedom of speech laws. However, the current “number of high profile suicides . . . . relating to leaked photos” appears to be sparking much legislative interest in the area. Beginning in 2013, at least thirteen “American states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin have enacted legislation. While another 28 introduced bills in 2014.”

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Organization, has started a campaign to “End Revenge Porn.” The three main objectives of the campaign are: To provide moral support, resources, and referrals to victims; to raise public awareness; and advocate for legislative action. The Cyber Rights activists stress that “Revenge pornography is socially and emotionally damaging to its victims and, in cases where victims’ personal information is attached to the offending material, can be physically threatening.”

Although, the ball is currently rolling in the right direction there are many concerns that must be considered. There are privacy rights regarding both parties (the victim as well as the perpetrator who can hide behind a computer screen). Policing the issue is another U.S. Constitutional concern, because surveillance would essentially include surveilling private belongings and communications. Even with the many potential concerns/conflicts, in the modern world of instant everything, the criminalization of this wrongful behavior must find its way into legislation and fast.  This is a problem that is not going to go away, and these victims deserve a remedy. One recent victim and well-known actress Jenifer Lawrence speaking out against “revenge porn” has perfectly stated: “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime . . . . [i]t is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.” Wouldn’t you agree?

How do you think the international community should come together to resolve this common problem affecting many nations? Is restricting such behavior really a violation of freedom of speech laws? If so, is there anyway legislation could respect freedom of speech, while simultaneously combatting “revenge porn”?

Sources: Jurist, Cyber Civil Rights


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