Now That Basically All Revenge Porn Has Moved Out Of The US, Al Franken Says FBI Should Do Something

from the a-little-late-to-the-party,-al dept

In the last few months, the small group of slimeballs who ran revenge porn websites have mostly been taken down by the legal system. The FTC went after Craig Brittain (though, weakly). Kevin Bollaert was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in jail. And Hunter Moore took a plea deal that will send him to jail for a while. Another revenge porn purveyor, Casey Meyering is about to face a trial. Not everyone will agree with whether or not the punishments are reasonable or fair (and you can definitely argue that the difference in punishment between Brittain and Bollaert is insane -- given that Brittain appears to have done the same thing as Bollaert, and actually did it first). On top of that, platforms like Twitter and Reddit have both changed their terms of service to make it much more difficult to use either to promote revenge porn.

However, the good thing is that all of this legal activity and platform policy changes have worked in terms of making it clear that revenge porn is not a worthwhile pursuit. According to Adam Steinbaugh, who is famous for tracking down and exposing the people who run revenge porn sites, all of this activity means that almost all revenge porn sites in the US have shut down. He believes there's still one left (which we won't name here), but we'll see how long that lasts.

And... even though various states have rushed to pass anti-revenge porn laws, none of the cases above relied on such laws. Rather they used existing laws around unauthorized computer hacking and extortion to bring those individuals and sites down. And yet, we still hear from politicians who insist that we need new laws -- laws that will put important safe harbors like Section 230 at risk. Laws that may, also, run up against the First Amendment.

Apparently, even as existing laws and voluntary efforts have thankfully pushed revenge porn far away, people still want to grandstand over it. The latest is Senator Al Franken. Franken is often good on tech policy issues (though he was on the wrong side of SOPA). For reasons unknown, he's suddenly decided that revenge porn is a big issue that he needs to take on.
In a letter to FBI Director James Comey on Friday, the Minnesota Democrat said he hoped the government would ramp up its recent steps to address the problem.
You can read the letter [pdf] yourself and see. The letter notes the conviction of Hunter Moore (but not the others) and the moves by Twitter and Reddit, but somehow fails to note that these efforts have been rather successful in reducing the easy access to revenge porn. Instead, he demands more action.
In light of this, I request that you provide information on all legal authorities available to the FBI to investigate cases involving the nonconsensual disclosure of sexually explicit images and any statistics on how your authorities, including federal hacking and identity theft laws, have been used to combat conduct of this nature. Furthermore, I ask that you provide information on any limitations in current law that you have identified that may have prevented the FBI from conducting investigations and making arrests in cases of nonsconsensual disclosure of sexually explicit images.
Of course, it doesn't take that much looking to recognize that the Justice Department has, in fact, spent a lot of time going after malicious hackers who have been breaking in to phones and computers to leak nude photos. But Franken seems to ignore all of that.

Instead, the language used in the letter suggests that Franken is going to release a federal anti-revenge porn law to give the feds even more power to go after people. There have been a few such attempts in the past to put forth federal anti-revenge porn laws and they've all been very, very problematic. This is not saying that revenge porn isn't a problem -- but the "solution" in the form of legislation will have massive and dangerous consequences for free speech and innovation online -- all to deal with a problem that has already mostly been eliminated, and where further steps can easily be taken without passing dangerous new laws that undermine Section 230 of the CDA or the First Amendment. Or which would create new penalties in dangerous ways that could be abused like the CFAA.

For Senator Franken -- who often presents himself as being one of the more internet savvy politicians -- to be moving in a direction that could undermine key rules that helped make the internet what it is today is a big problem. Over the last few months we've seen how existing laws and a few small changes to existing platforms can be used to make most of these bad sites go away. Do we really need to pass sweeping new laws that will undoubtedly have serious additional consequences?
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Filed Under: al franken, do something, fbi, free speech, revenge porn, section 230


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  • icon
    Mark Harrill (profile), 6 Apr 2015 @ 12:42pm

    Encryption

    In response to this:
    Furthermore, I ask that you provide information on any limitations in current law that you have identified that may have prevented the FBI from conducting investigations and making arrests in cases of nonsconsensual disclosure of sexually explicit images.


    The FBI is going to say proposed encryption standards aren't they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Adam Steinbaugh (profile), 6 Apr 2015 @ 1:07pm

    I think Franken's too late, but the FBI could have helped negate much of the controversy of revenge porn by acting sooner. 2257's regulations re: record-keeping -- assuming they're applicable to dedicated revenge porn sites -- are as close to a silver bullet as they come, because none of these sites kept anything approximating appropriate 2257 records. And the sole agency authorized to enforce 2257? The FBI.

    The FBI also could have done something about Craig Brittain's "IsAnybodyDown?" and "David Blade" extortion scam, which a number of people (including Ken White) have pointed out is wire fraud, among a host of other things. And if the FBI wants an easy way to quickly show Sen. Franklin that they're serious about the issue (in addition to the acts noted above), Craig Brittain is an easy and very well-known target. The federal statutes of limitations on both extortion and wire fraud are five years.

    But if the FBI/DOJ *really* wanted to have an impact, the last major revenge porn site -- which dwarfs any of those that preceded it -- is still active. Its operators might be hard to pick up, but it's not impossible, and the DOJ knows who they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 6 Apr 2015 @ 1:50pm

    Trolls

    Considering the length porn copyright-trolls are going to now to extort money from downloaders claiming the criminality of the act, think how badly they are going to twist the thumbscrews with a new law banning "nonsconsensual disclosure of sexually explicit images".

    Trolling will explode!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 6 Apr 2015 @ 2:45pm

    well obviously we need to invade the countries these scumbags are in. We made up a reason to do it for every attack in the last several decades why not just use this one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 6 Apr 2015 @ 3:22pm

    Yes, that's exactly what we need: More laws!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2015 @ 4:40pm

    Hey, the FBI has a problem with this Sen. Franken. Their authority ends at the US borders. This is the internet as you well know. The internet does not end at the US borders. So the FBI is really limited as to how far towards the ends of the earth it can chase these people.

    You made a point, it was not welcome in the US. Those doing this heard your message. They moved out of the boundaries of the US. Slimeballs are not limited to just the US. I suggest your new law make it so all these other sovereign countries have to follow your new law, otherwise you're just flappin' it in the wind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2015 @ 4:55pm

    This is not saying that revenge porn isn't a problem -- but the "solution" in the form of legislation will have massive and dangerous consequences for free speech and innovation online....

    Seriously? You actually say that without a draft of the law even being written? You look like a bigger asshole than usual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 12:41am

      Re:

      You're _honestly_ giving the United States Congress the benefit of the doubt? At this late stage?

      I mean, I know it's Al Franken and all, but...

      Really?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:36am

      Re:

      You actually say that without a draft of the law even being written?

      If you believe it hasn't been written, you haven't been paying attention.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:26am

        Re: Re:

        Have you read it, Chicken Little? What language in it leads you to conclude the sky is indeed falling? And if you have read it, please share with the rest of us so we can actually discuss it rather rely on your daily panic attack to assess it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2015 @ 7:01pm

    The false prophet of doom. -- DOOM, I tell you!

    Masnick imagines at least ten disasters for every real one. It's just click-bait.

    This is a good one to spot his biases, though -- he's worried only that corporations and pirate sites will lose their current undue exemption from liability for aiding and abetting criminal behavior.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 5:37am

      Re: The false prophet of doom. -- DOOM, I tell you!

      he's worried only that corporations and pirate sites will lose their current undue exemption from liability for aiding and abetting criminal behavior.

      There is no exemption from liability for aiding and abetting criminal behavior. Section 230 specifically exempts criminal behavior. So, no, you're wrong. But nice try.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 11:47am

        Re: Re: The false prophet of doom. -- DOOM, I tell you!

        So, Mike...

        What's it like to have your very own personal troll follow you around? Unique experience?

        (Not the troll.)

        ;)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ElAngelo (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 6:40pm

    The domain name of this guy 'yougotposted' already made the purpose of the website pretty obvious.

    The guy does deserve a long stay in jail, but a possible 18 years is too long, not? (10 years parole) I think that most rapists get out after a couple of years, unless I got it wrong. I assume that the extortion of the victims made the sentence so harsh and most likely they also want to send a message to copycats like myex, http://theporndude.com/,... to close their website, since the guy made good and easy money.

    Revenge porn won't stop now though, since ex-partners post pictures in an act of 'rage' , but it's nice that future victims can do something about it, although once something is posted on the internet, it's near impossible to get it 100 % deleted.

    Maybe they should warn students about this in sex education class? If girls are better informed about the consequences of mailing naked pictures to their boyfriend, then they won't be traumatized for life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 9 Apr 2015 @ 2:17am

    His letter sounds like he just wants to know how current laws work and where they don't. It is just information gathering so that he can be well informed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Greg, 12 Mar 2017 @ 5:37pm

    u can earn easy money with pornlist sites and u can earn easy money with babe sites like http://sexo18.net/ u have a lot of free porn sites in the world butt ppl still buying affilate videos ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Greg, 12 Mar 2017 @ 5:38pm

    u can earn easy money with pornlist sites and u can earn easy money with babe sites like on sexo18.net u have a lot of free porn sites in the world butt ppl still buying affilate videos ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Topsexcam, 19 Jul 2018 @ 8:59am

    The best pornlist for cam website is topsexcam.com
    Full and quality ranked websites

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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