The epidemic of “revenge porn” has strong emotional, social, and professional ramifications. Katie Hill, a former Congresswoman, was recently the victim of the posting of revenge porn.

The Hill scandal, centered around the unauthorized distribution of the nude photos by political opponents, brought a new aspect to the issue of revenge porn. This new cyber-crime presents a very serious problem and can be used as a dangerous political tactic.

Revenge porn is the publicizing of one’s sexually explicit images or videos online, without consent, to cause embarrassment or distress. It is a form of sexual violence made possible by the digital age.

Ninety percent of the victims of this crime are women. The professional and personal ramifications of publicizing private pictures and videos are often severe.

The majority of victims experience extremely negative consequences. Many victims reported significant emotional distress and social impairment. Additionally, thirty-nine percent of victims reported that the posting of revenge porn affected their professional life. In addition, forty-nine percent of victims reported suffering harassment from users viewing their posted images. 

Most drastically, fifty-one percent of respondents stated they considered committing suicide as a result of their ordeal.

Revenge porn is an issue because it is an epidemic in society that is affecting famous and everyday women alike.

For victims of non-consensual pornography, technology today makes it possible to destroy a person’s life with the click of a button or a tap on a cell phone,” Congresswoman Jackie Speier stated.

You may remember one of America’s most “famous” nude photo humiliations involving Marcia Clark, a prosecutor of O.J. Simpson, whose private photographs were released publicly five months into the case.

Other examples include the “Celebrity-Gate” of hacked iCloud accounts, where nude images of Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna went viral after their iCloud accounts were hacked. Rihanna recounted that it was “the worst thing that could possibly ever happen to[her]. . . . It was humiliating and it was embarrassing, especially [her] mom having to see that.”

The Katie Hill Scandal

Recently, the Hill scandal revolved around the unauthorized distribution of the nude photos of Representative Katie Hill. Hill’s brief career in Congress came to end suddenly. Her downfall started on October 18, when the right-wing outlet RedState published an article alleging sexual relationships between Hill and two staffers, in addition to an explicit photograph of Hill. Further, right-leaning publications picked up the story and it gained attention on Twitter.

On October 22, Hill responded denying the first alleged relationship. She further stated the photograph’s release was the work of her “abusive” husband. But the next day, Hill released a second statement, acknowledging her “inappropriate” relationship with the second staffer.

The House Ethics Committee subsequently announced an investigation. On October 24, the Daily Mail released additional explicit photos. On October 27, Hill resigned.

Hill stated in her speech that the photos of her “were taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent.

The Hill scandal demonstrates a publication of an explicit photo of an opposition politician for political gain. The incident highlighted the political dangers of ambiguities in cyberlaw.

How Hill’s Scandal Can Help Mold Stronger Revenge Porn Laws

Revenge porn became an epidemic for various reasons, from difficulties in regulating the deep web to lack of uniformity in the law. Further, the borderless nature of the Internet makes it difficult to regulate.

Further, the states have diverse laws. Currently, only thirty-eight states have laws against nonconsensual porn. Most states outlaw the “dissemination of intimate images” without consent. But, other states consider revenge porn cyber harassment and stalking.

Also, a possible contributor is cultural victim-blaming. However, the most important barrier in the prosecution of the crime is there is no federal law governing nonconsensual porn.

The ENOUGH Act

To address the most important barrier in the prosecution of this cybercrime, the Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act, H.R. 4472, was introduced in 2017.

If it becomes law, the ENOUGH Act would federally outlaw the posting of porn without consent. The Act should be passed because it will help lawyers prosecute these crimes by making cyberlaw uniform.

ENOUGH’s passage will improve the epidemic of revenge porn because it would discourage political tactics like those that recently occurred in the Hill scandal. The cyberlaw change is widely supported as it has bipartisan support and the backing of big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter.

The Hill scandal revealed the political dangers of ambiguities in cyberlaw and the need to pass the ENOUGH Act.