A federal ‘revenge porn’ ban could transform online harassment laws

House Armed Services Committee Hears Testimony On Sexual Harassment At Fort Hood
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The US could be on the verge of passing the first federal law against nonconsensual pornography or “revenge porn.” If it does, it could reignite a debate over the balance between punishing serious harms and limiting free expression.

Lawmakers in 46 states (as well as Guam and the District of Columbia) have already passed bans on nonconsensual pornography: nude or sexually explicit images distributed without their subjects’ consent. But activists have long called for a federal law to replace the patchwork of state laws — and now, they’re on the cusp of getting it.

A new measure that would ban knowingly or recklessly distributing “intimate visual depictions” of non-consenting subjects has been added as an amendment to the Violence Against…

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