Cyber Civil Rights By Kate Bonner

Cyber Civil Rights

By Kate Bonner


The internet is a dangerous avenue for civil rights violations. One form of such a violation is revenge porn, or nonconsensual pornography. [1] Revenge porn is “a form of sexual abuse that involves the distribution of nude/sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without their consent.” [2] Many times these postings include detailed information including the victim’s phone numbers and potentially even their addresses. Despite the name, “many perpetrators are not motivated by revenge or by any personal feelings toward the victim.” [3] In any event, the posting of such private images or videos without someone’s consent on such a public forum can have horrific consequence. [4]

“Up to 80% of revenge porn victims took the offending photographs themselves, which means that they own the rights to those pictures.” [5] Many times the initial disclosure of photos or videos that will be used on the internet later are sent consensually. However, the release of the photos on the internet is nonconsensual and should be illegal in all states. Currently, 26 states have revenge porn laws including Florida, who has a sexual cyber-harassment statute, and Georgia, who has an invasion of privacy statute. [6] Alabama is not among the states that have enacted laws regarding revenge porn. [7] Carrie Goldberb, a New York attorney who has gained notoriety for work to help victims seek justice, stated, “Alabama neither has a revenge porn law nor has introduced one.” [8]

“Revenge porn causes harms tied to its vengeful nature – a privacy invasion that interferes with and sometimes destroys the victim’s relationship with others.” [9] Victims have lost their jobs, been harassed by strangers, and have been unable to attend college or find a job due to the backlash from their photos being posted online. [10] The consequences of revenge porn are likely more long lasting than real-life harassment because it is increasingly difficult for victims to engage in self-help or legal remedies, it is accessible to almost anyone, and harassers have a wide audience. [11]

Influential convictions have helped shape many of the state’s revenge porn statutes. In March 2015, “an Oregon man was sentenced to jail in Utah state court for sending his in-laws explicit pictures of his estranged wife, a case that led to the passing of the state’s first revenge porn statute.” [12] He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, on top of the 90 days he had previously served. [13] In California, “a man posted photos of his ex-girlfriend without her consent on her employer’s Facebook page.” [14] This man was the first to be convicted under California’s “revenge porn” law and was sentenced to one year in jail and 36 month probation. [15] Convictions similar to these are essential to the fight against revenge porn.

It is time for Congress to take action to protect victims of revenge porn. A bill has been introduced that would “make the nonconsensual distribution of intimate photos a federal crime.” [16] “The bill proposes a prison sentence of up to five years along with a fine.” [17] Whether this proposed bill will have any effect on foreign sites is unclear; however, this bill’s proposal is a step in the right direction. Further, many organizations and nonprofits have taken a stand against revenge porn and work continually to protect victims of cyber crime. Without My Consent is a non-profit working to combat online harassment and invasions of privacy. [18] Without My Consent states, “We stand for free speech, privacy, due process, and equality in a digital world.” [19] End Revenge Porn was initiated by Holly James, Ph.D., after being a victim of revenge porn herself. [20] End Revenge Porn is a hub where victims can get information, receive support, be referred to pro or low bono services to help them regain control of their search results and their lives. [21] The stand against abuse by revenge porn has to be a collaborative effort. Google has a new policy that “will allow anyone to fill out a form requesting the removal of nude and sexual images of themselves that have been posted without consent.” [22] Further, social media sites like Facebook have backed the criminalization of revenge porn. [23] Legislatures and private actors alike must take action to end the detrimental life-altering effects of revenge porn.

Questioning why someone would send suggestive photos to another person is an important consideration; however, trusting someone with private photos does not give them the right to expose them publically. Many people associate porn with consensual action and that is far from the truth. In the realm of revenge porn, individuals are facing life altering consequences for simply trusting someone close to them. It is past time for Alabama to take action in the way of passing a law criminalizing revenge porn. Go sign the petition to End Revenge Porn. [24]



[1] What is NCP?, End Revenge Porn, (last visited Feb. 10, 2016).


[2] Id.


[3] Id.


[4] Andrienne N. Kitchen, The Need to Criminalize Revenge Porn: How a Law Protection Victims Can Avoid Running Afoul of the First Amendment, 90 Chi-Kent L. Rev. 247, 247 (2015).


[5] What is “Revenge Porn”?, Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, (Last visited: Feb. 10, 2016).


[6] Revenge Porn Laws, End Revenge Porn, (last visited: Feb 10, 2016).


[7] Id.


[8] John Sharp, The Growing and Disturbing Rise of ‘Revenge Porn’, AL.Com (July 05, 2015),


[9] Andrienne N. Kitchen, The Need to Criminalize Revenge Porn: How a Law Protection Victims Can Avoid Running Afoul of the First Amendment, 90 Chi-Kent L. Rev. 247, 247 (2015).


[10] Id.


[11] Id.


[12] Emily Field, Man Gets Jail Time In Utah’s Landmark Revenge Porn Case, Law 360 (March 17, 2015),


[13] Id.


[14] Lydia O’Conner, ‘Revenge Porn’ Law Sees First Conviction in California, Huffpost Tech (Dec. 02, 2014),


[15] Id.


[16] Steven Nelson, Congress Set to Examine Revenge Porn, U.S. News (July 30, 2015),


[17] Id.


[18] Who We Are, Without My Consent, (last visited: Feb. 10, 2015).


[19] Id.


[20] Who We Are, End Revenge Porn, (last visited: Feb 10, 2016).


[21] Id.


[22] Heather Kelly & Laurie Segall, Google Bans Revenge Porn, CNN Money (June 19, 2015),


[23] Mario Trujillo, Facebook Backs Criminalization of Revenge Porn, The Hill (Nov. 20, 2015),


[24] Petition, End Revenge Porn, (last visited: Feb 10, 2016).


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