The Legality of ‘Revenge Porn’ Websites

‘Revenge Porn’  is a genre of online pornography through which anonymous posters upload sexually explicit photos and videos of others without the consent of the person depicted. This genre can sometimes be blended with typical, often called  ‘amateur porn’ websites, but is now often found on dedicated sites of their own. This genre is most commonly associated with the now defunct site IsAnyoneUp.com , started by new media sleaze kingpin Hunter Moore.

But as always with the internet, when one site falls another rises to fill its place.

Wired UK has a piece on the owner of the website IsAnybodyDown.com (explicit, questionable legality), a site far more openly malicious than Moore’s. The owner (who doesn’t need web-celeb status via a mention) dismisses objections to his website of the revenge porn genre, calling it ‘entertainment’. That website, has a particularly harsh policy of requiring people depicted on the website to pay a $250 ‘service fee’ to have their photos removed.  This not an uncommon form of extortion found within the revenge porn genre which has led some commentators to explore the legal options for individuals depicted on such websites.

ArsTechnica has an article on the possible use of anti-extortion laws to take down websites, whilst Wired UK noted the use of copyright protections (if the person depicted had taken the photo themselves) which may provide some legal relief. Ultimately, the conclusion reached through this analysis is that existing laws fail to adequately protect victims of internet sleaze.

For my fellow Victorian Australians, it might be of some relief to note that you have an avenue for legal recourse.  Through a bit of questionable legal creativity many sites which harass individuals by uploading sexually explicit material can be taken down through the use of classification laws limiting the publishing of “objectionable material”.  This was the avenue used against the Benders Root Rate website (the name speaks for itself) and its creators who were prosecuted for publishing offensive material on an information network. The use of classification laws to prosecute these matters is of course misplaced and incredibly problematic on its own – having more than a whiff of censorship and having a wider generality then this author is comfortable with. I would love to know how the other states handle this emerging situation.

The  advantage of the Victorian laws work best because they do not require the ‘credible threat’ or mal-intention elements of harassment/extortion used in other jurisdictions.

Ultimately, some legal creativity is needed to ensure that sites like IsAnybodyDown.com are given the legal smack down they deserve, but do not rely on ‘objectionable material’ laws which are open to abuse.

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