Revenge porn

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Revenge porn is sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual.[1][2] Revenge porn may be uploaded by ex-partners with an intention to shame or embarrass the pictured individual, or by hackers.[3][4]

Many of the images are pictures taken by the pictured persons themselves, or selfies,[5] with victims mostly being women.[2] The uploaded formerly private explicit images are often accompanied by personal information, including the pictured individual's full name, links to social media profiles or addresses.[6][7] Jurisdictions which have passed laws against revenge porn include Israel, Germany, and sixteen states within the United States.[2]


In the 1980s, Hustler magazine began a monthly feature of reader-submitted images of naked women called "Beaver Hunt".[8] Beaver Hunt photographs were often accompanied by details about the woman, like her hobbies, her sexual fantasies, and sometimes her name.[8] Not all of the women featured in Beaver Hunt submitted their own images and several women sued the magazine for publishing their photographs without their permission.[9]

Two decades later, Italian researcher Sergio Messina identified “realcore pornography”, a new genre consisting of images and videos of ex-girlfriends distributed through Usenet groups.[10] In 2008, amateur porn aggregator XTube began receiving complaints that pornographic content had been posted without subjects’ consent. Several sites began staging consensual pornography to resemble revenge porn, as well as hosting "authentic" user-submitted content.[10]

Revenge porn began garnering international media attention when Hunter Moore launched the website IsAnyoneUp in 2010.[11] The site featured user-submitted pornography,[11] and was one of the first sites to adopt the model initiated by Beaver Hunt: IsAnyoneUp often included identifying information, such as the subjects’ names, employers, addresses and links to social networking profiles.[11] Activist Charlotte Laws was the first person to speak out against Moore and to publicly support revenge porn victims. This prompted backlash from some of Moore's devotees, who stalked her and pummeled her with computer viruses and death threats.[12]

In August 2012, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative started an online campaign against revenge porn, or, as they refer to it, "non-consensual pornography."[13] The group also considers it a form of sexual abuse.[14] The website, founded by Holly Jacobs and run by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative hosts petitions with the intention of criminalizing revenge porn.[15]

In February 2015, the social media site and online bulletin board Reddit announced a change to its privacy policy to ban the posting of sexually explicit content without the consent of those depicted. The company stated that its policy regarding "illicit pornography — pictures and video — was a burning one" after a recent all-hands company meeting. As of March 2015, the ban goes into effect.[16] In March 2015, Twitter followed suit with new rules to address the posting of unauthorized content and specifically revenge porn. Starting March 11 Twitter stated it would immediately remove "any 'link to a photograph, video, or digital image of you in a state of nudity or engaged in any act of sexual conduct' that has been posted without consent."[17] According to a Washington Post article on the changes, if it is determined that an account has broken the new rules, Twitter staff will hide the post and may block the account. The article also stated that the changes were in response to growing concerns "that it has not done enough to prevent bad behavior on its site."[18]


Some individuals whose sexually explicit photographs were posted online without their consent have sought legal remedies.[19] Tort, privacy, copyright and criminal laws offer remedies against submitters of consensual pornography.[20][21]

U.S. laws[edit]

Several US states have passed laws criminalizing revenge porn. Sixteen states have expressly applicable laws to revenge porn: Alaska, Arizona, California,[2] Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois,[22] Maryland, New Jersey,[2] Idaho, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.[23]

New Jersey's law prohibits the distribution of "sexually explicit" photographs and films by any person, "knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so" and without the subjects' consent.[24] The law was used to prosecute Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student who distributed webcam footage of his roommate Tyler Clementi engaging in sexual activity, after which Clementi committed suicide.[25] The law has also been used to prosecute several men who allegedly distributed revenge porn of their ex-girlfriends.[26]

Some scholars have argued that new criminal laws meant to combat revenge porn are likely to be overbroad, resulting in unintended consequences.[27]

Criminal prosecutions[edit]

Several well-known revenge porn websites, including IsAnyoneUp and the Texxxan, have been taken down in response to actual or threatened legal action.[28] The former was investigated by the FBI after anti-revenge porn activist Charlotte Laws uncovered a hacking scheme associated with the website. Indictments were handed down in January 2014 for the site owner and his accomplices, and the trial was initially set to begin in November 2014 in Los Angeles.[29] Hunter Moore, who ran the site "isAnyoneUp" pleaded guilty to hacking and identity theft in early 2015 and faces up to seven years in prison. [30] Moore's sentencing court date is scheduled for June 24, 2015.[31]

In December 2013, California Attorney General Kamala Harris charged Kevin Bollaert, who ran the revenge porn website UGotPosted, with 31 felony counts, including extortion and identity theft.[2][32] In March 2014, because the victim was under eighteen years old in the photos, a court in Ohio awarded damages of $385,000 against Bollaert.[2] In April 2015 Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years in prison.[33] "Sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, will not shield predators from the law or jail," said Attorney General Harris following the verdict.[33]

Hunter Moore, the founder of porn website IsAnyoneUp, was indicted on fifteen felony counts in January 2014, including conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an anti-hacking statute;[34] according to FBI charges, Moore paid a computer hacker to extract explicit images for his now-defunct website.[2] In December 2014, a man was convicted according to the law in the state of California for posting a naked photo of his ex-girlfriend along with derogatory comments on her employer's page on Facebook; he is serving time in jail.[35]

Tort and privacy law[edit]

Recent lawsuits over revenge porn have alleged invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private fact and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the individuals who uploaded the images.[36] Forty states, including California and New York, have anti-cyberharassment laws that may be applicable to cases of revenge porn.[23]

In February 2014, a US$500,000 settlement was awarded to a Texas woman who brought suit against her ex-boyfriend for posting video and photos of her on the Internet. The state did not have a specific "revenge porn" law at the time of the lawsuit.[37][38][39]

Communications Decency Act §230[edit]

Recent revenge porn lawsuits name service providers and websites as defendants alongside individuals who uploaded the images.[40] The Communications Decency Act, also known as §230, shields websites and service providers from liability for content posted by users.[41][42] If user-generated content posted to a website does not violate copyright or criminal laws, sites have no obligation to remove the content under §230.[43]


An estimated 80% of revenge porn pictures and videos are taken by the subject themselves.[44] Those individuals can bring actions for copyright infringement against the person who uploaded their nude or semi-nude "selfies". American victims may file Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices with service providers.[45] Revenge porn site has been a defendant in a copyright infringement case.[46]

Prenuptial agreements[edit]

Increasingly, couples are drafting "social media" prenuptial agreements,[47] some of which include provisions relating to revenge porn.[48] Clauses may state that couples agree not to share photos or posts that are likely to harm a spouse’s professional reputation.[47]

First Amendment and anti-SLAPP[edit]

Some free speech advocates object to revenge porn laws on First Amendment grounds.[49] United States courts are generally reluctant to uphold legislation that restricts free speech.[50]

Revenge porn uploaders and websites may also challenge lawsuits using state protections against strategic lawsuit against public participations (anti-SLAPP laws),[51] which allow defendants to counter lawsuits aimed at stifling free speech.[52]

Other countries[edit]

In January 2014, Israel became the first country to pass a law that classifies revenge porn as a sex crime. Sharing sexually explicit videos without the consent of the pictured individual will be punishable by up to five years in prison.[53] The Australian state of Victoria modified its pre-existing sexting laws to prohibit the sending of sexually explicit pictures of a third party.[54] The Philippines criminalizes copying, reproducing, sharing or exhibiting sexually explicit images or videos over the Internet without written consent of the individual depicted.[55]

There have been a number of incidents in the Arab world (Lebanon, Saudi, Morocco and Egypt all have had incidents) which appear to be revenge porn, there is no legislation in place yet.[56] Though it may be argued that it may not be necessary because such conduct may be punishable under various anti-pornography, indecency, privacy and defamation laws.

Many European countries have broad privacy statutes that may be applicable to revenge porn.[57] France also criminalizes the willful violation of the intimate private life of another by "transmitting the picture of a person who is within a private place, without the consent of the person concerned".[58] In Germany, in May 2014 a High Court ruled that intimate photographs of partners should be deleted if the partner requests.[59]

Japan is considering criminalizing revenge porn after reports of revenge porn involving high school girls skyrocketed in March 2014.[60] Brazil has also introduced anti-revenge porn legislation.[61]


Canada has introduced a new bill to tackle the issue of revenge porn though it has run into opposition from critics concerned about privacy issues.[62]


In April 2014, UK charities including The National Stalking Helpline, Women's Aid, and the UK Safer Internet Centre reported increased use of revenge porn websites.[59] Women’s Aid Charity Chief Executive Polly Neate stated, "To be meaningful, any attempt to tackle revenge porn must also take account of all other kinds of psychological abuse and controlling behaviour, and revenge porn is just another form of coercive control. That control is central to domestic violence, which is why we're campaigning for all psychological abuse and coercive control to be criminalised". In July, Minister of Justice Chris Grayling announced plans to "take appropriate action" to address revenge porn in Britain.[59] A House of Lords Committee, in a report on social media crime, subsequently called for clarification from the DPP as to when revenge porn becomes a crime.[63][64]

In February 2015 it was announced that the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which has a specific amendment dealing with such actions, had received Royal Assent. The Act is now law in England and Wales and offenders face up to two years in jail.[65]


If the video or images in question are of individuals who are minors, this can lead to additional charges for child pornography[66] as has happened in non-revenge porn related cases involving sexting.[67][68]


  1. ^ Mary Anne Franks, End Revenge Porn Website, End Revenge Porn. Retrieved February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Revenge porn: Misery merchants". The Economist. 5 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Keith Coffman, "Colorado Lawmakers Advance Bill To Crack Down On 'Revenge Porn'", "Huffington Post" (June 24, 2014).
  4. ^ Camille Dodero, "'Gary Jones' Wants Your Nudes", The Village Voice (May 16, 2012).
  5. ^ Danielle K. Citron, "‘Revenge porn’ should be a crime", CNN Opinion (Aug. 30, 2013).
  6. ^ Emily Bazelon,Why Do We Tolerate Revenge Porn?", Slate (Sept. 25, 2013).
  7. ^ Eric Larson, "It's Still Easy to Get Away With Revenge Porn", Mashable, 21 October 2013.
  8. ^ a b Kelly Dennis, Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching, Oxford International Publishers (2009)
  9. ^ See, e.g., Wood v. Hustler, 736 F.2d 1084 (5th Cir. 1984).
  10. ^ a b Alexa Tsoulis-Reay, "A Brief History of Revenge Porn", New York Magazine (July 21, 2013).
  11. ^ a b c On The Media, "Revenge Porn’s Latest Frontier", WNYC (Dec. 2, 2011).
  12. ^
  13. ^ Staff. "About". CCRI. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  14. ^ Mary Franks, Criminalizing Revenge Porn: A Quick Guide.
  15. ^ [1].
  16. ^ Pardon, Rhett (February 24, 2015). "Reddit to Ban Sexually Explicit Content Posted Without Consent". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Hymes, Tom. "Twitter Targets Revenge Porn with New Abusive Behavior Policies New tougher prohibitions start today.". Adult Video News. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  18. ^ Tsukayama, Hayley (March 11, 2015). "Twitter updates its rules to specifically ban ‘revenge porn’". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  19. ^ Emily Bazelon,"Fighting Back Against Revenge Porn", Slate, 23 January 2013.
  20. ^ Woodrow Hartzog, "How to Fight Revenge Porn", Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society (May 10, 2013).
  21. ^ Doug Barry, "A New Bill in Florida Would Make Non-Consensual ‘Revenge Porn’ a Felony", Jezebel, 7 April 2013.
  22. ^ Garcia, Monique (December 30, 2014). "Quinn signs 'revenge porn' ban into law". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 31, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b State Cyberstalking and Cyberharassment Laws, National Conference of State Legislatures (Nov. 16, 2012).
  24. ^ New Jersey Invasion of Privacy, "N.J.S.A. 2C:14-9".
  25. ^ Megan DiMarco and Alexi Friedman,"Live Blog: Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail", The Star-Ledger (May 12, 2012).
  26. ^ Marueen O’Connor,"The Crusading Sisterhood of Revenge-Porn Victims", New York Magazine (Aug. 29, 2013).
  27. ^ An overbroad "revenge porn" law poses a threat to free speech and the public, risks being struck down on First Amendment grounds and imprisoning or convicting unintended offenders. Sarah Jeong, "Revenge Porn Is Bad. Criminalizing It Is Worse", Wired, 28 October 2013.
  28. ^ Erica Goode, "Victims Push Laws to End Online Revenge Posts", New York Times 23 September 2013.
  29. ^ Roy, Jessica. "Revenge-Porn King Hunter Moore Indicted on Federal Charges". Time. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Press Release: Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Arrest of Revenge Porn Website Operator", California Office of the Attorney General.
  33. ^ a b Perry, Tony (3 April 2015). "'Revenge porn' website operator sentenced to 18 years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-04-04. 
  34. ^ Indictment, United States v. Hunter Moore.
  35. ^ "'Revenge porn' Facebook post leads to jail sentence". BBC News. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 2015-04-04. 
  36. ^ Complaint in Jacobs v. Seay, 13-1362 6CA0 (Fl. Apr. 18, 2013)
  37. ^ Staff. "Houston woman wins $500,000 in 'revenge porn' lawsuit". Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  38. ^ Staff. "Texas Jury Awards Revenge-Porned Woman Half a Mil". Adult Video News. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  39. ^ Adi Robertson, "Texas Woman Wins Half a Million Dollars in Revenge Porn Lawsuit", The Verge (Mar. 1, 2014)
  40. ^ Toups v., No. D130018-C (Tex. June 18, 2013).
  41. ^ 47 U.S.C. §230 Protection for Private Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material.
  42. ^ Lichter, Susanna (28 May 2013). "Unwanted exposure: Civil and criminal liability for revenge porn hosts and posters". Harvard Journal of Law and Technology. 
  43. ^ Jerry Brito, "Are Laws Against Revenge Porn A Good Idea?" (Oct. 21, 2013).
  44. ^ Heather Kelly, "New California 'Revenge Porn' Law May Miss Some Victims", CNN (Oct. 3, 2013).
  45. ^ 17 U.S.C. §102-Subject Matter of Copyright: In General.
  46. ^ "Hollie Toups vs Google, Inc., Yahoo!, Inc. and". United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division. March 6, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  47. ^ a b Effron, Lauren. "I Love You, You're Perfect, but Watch What You Facebook: Social Media Prenups". ABC News, Good Morning America. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  48. ^ Staff. "'Revenge Porn' Increasingly Added to Marriage Prenups". Adult Video News. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  49. ^ Erin Fuchs, "Here's What the Constitution Says About Posting Naked Pictures Of Your Ex To The Internet", Business Insider (Oct. 1, 2013).
  50. ^ See United States v. Alvarez, 132 S.Ct. 2537, 2544 (US 2012) ("[A]s a general matter, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content").
  51. ^ Joe Mullin, "New lawsuit against 'revenge porn' site also targets GoDaddy", Ars Technica (Jan. 22, 2013).
  52. ^ Twenty-five states currently have anti-SLAPP legislation. "What is a SLAPP suit?", Chilling Effects Clearinghouse (2013).
  53. ^ Yifa Yaakov, "Israeli Law Makes Revenge Porn a Sex Crime", The Times of Israel (Jan. 6, 2014).
  54. ^ Jon Martindale, "Australian State Outlaws Revenge Porn", KitGuru, (Dec. 12, 2013).
  55. ^ "Philippines Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009" (Feb.10.2010).
  56. ^ [2]
  57. ^ Marc Rotenberg and David Jacobs, "Updating the Law of Information Privacy: The New Framework of the European Union", Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Spring 2013).
  58. ^ "French Penal Code Article 226-1", Nov. 19, 2013.
  59. ^ a b c Simpson, Jack. "Revenge porn: What is it and how widespread is the problem?". Independent UK. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  60. ^
  61. ^ Krystie Lee Yandoli, "Revenge Porn Legislation Called For In Brazil Following 17-Year-Old's Suicide", Bustle (2013)
  62. ^ [3]
  63. ^ "'Revenge porn' laws must be clearer, say Lords". The Guardian. Press Association. Archived from the original on 2 October 2014. 
  64. ^ "Social media and criminal offences - Communications Committee Contents". House of Lords. 
  65. ^
  66. ^ "Sexting teens can go too far". Philadelphia News. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  67. ^ Seidman, Karen. "Child pornography laws ‘too harsh’ to deal with minors sexting photos without consent, experts say". National Post News - Canada. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  68. ^ Matyszczyk, Chris. "Teen charged with child porn for allegedly tweeting nude selfies". Retrieved 27 March 2014. 

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