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The Free Speech Argument Against Criminalizing Revenge Porn is Deeply-Flawed - We Rise Legal

The Free Speech Argument Against Criminalizing Revenge Porn is Deeply-Flawed

In recent years, the legal system has been struggling with the right way to punish the creators and distributors of revenge porn. “Revenge porn” is the catchy moniker given to the practice of sharing intimate or sexual images of a romantic partner with the express intent to humiliate or harm them. Imagine a jilted lover who has recently been dumped sharing sexy photos of his ex-girlfriend with captions like “look at this slut” and you get the idea. Revenge porn is often a cybercrime, and both are notoriously difficult to punish. 

Fortunately, many legislators are taking this horrendous practice seriously and are putting legal ramifications for this behavior into place. Unfortunately, some people are persisting that laws against revenge porn violate free speech. This argument is deeply flawed and gravely concerning. 

Many people falsely believe that their right to free speech means that they can say whatever they want, whenever they want. This is not the case. There have always been limitations to free speech. The most pervasive example is that you cannot scream “fire” in the crowded theater thus inciting panic. Free speech limitations have been upheld and well documented when it comes to hate speech, slander, pornography, incitement, classified information, Copywrite, and trade secrets among other things. Revenge porn is pornography, and thus should be limited in how it is disseminated. 

In a recent Texas case, the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the photographs and videos in question (which were sexual in nature and were shared without the subject’s consent) were inherently expressive and therefore their distribution was considered an extension of that expression, which is a first amendment right. This is a dangerous step backward when it comes to the legal treatment of revenge porn. The key factor is that the subject of the revenge porn material did not consent to the distribution. How are their rights being protected?

Historically, free speech has been limited to the speech is harmful to someone else. Revenge porn is harmful and must be treated accordingly.

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