What Are The Laws On Revenge Porn In The US? While It's Now Illegal in England, You Can Still Lawfully Post Naked Photos of Your Ex In Most States

Spurned lovers and angry exes in England and Wales could now face up to two years in jail if they post nude photos, explicit text messages, and other for-your-eyes-only electronic material online, thanks to new revenge porn laws enacted April 13. It's also now illegal to share pornographic and private items offline in those countries without consent of the party in question, reports Business Insider, which renders a sexy selfie sent to one person and then shown to that person's best friend potentially malfeasant, if there is intent to cause harm.

In the United States, only 16 states have outlawed revenge porn, including California, Texas, Colorado and New Jersey, leaving a wide open window for posting sexts, after-sex selfies, ill-advised naked 1 a.m. selfies and anything in between. That will likely change soon — lawmakers are scrambling to keep up with technology left and right, as most laws on the books didn't think ahead to today's proliferation of nipple shots and dick pics. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) plans to roll out a bill that would classify revenge porn a federal crime soon.

"Today it's possible to ruin someone's life with the click of a button, by publishing another person's private images without their consent," Rep. Speier told Gizmodo. "Our laws haven't yet caught up with this crime."

The potential bill would criminalize people who run revenge porn sites along with those who share the photos or text. This would include sites linking to the content, such as Twitter and Google, if they don't delete the links quickly after being asked to do so. Penalties would also be set, said Gizmodo, "on a sliding scale of sleaziness," with max sentences including jail.

All of that said, anti–revenge porn bills can cause controversy because they challenge the First Amendment. While that may have some truth to it, Speier's bill is highly specific about what constitutes such material, categorizing it similarly to child pornography.

As usual, Europe is more forward-thinking than we are on this front, with the aptly named "right to be forgotten" law potentially resulting in a European Union–wide revenge porn prohibition. In Israel, revenge porn is treated as a sex crime. Highly articulate law professor Mary Anne Franks, who advised Speier on the bill and penned a guide for legislators as part of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative's End Revenge Porn campaign, condemned the "violation of sexual privacy," saying:

Nonconsensual pornography does more than just harm individual victims. The vast majority of victims are women and girls, and the consequences of sexual exposure for women and girls tend to be more negative than for men and boys. That means that this conduct, and the threat of this conduct, has serious implications for gender equality. Women withdraw from every sphere of meaningful activity when they fall victim to this crime: work, school, social media, personal relationships. The effect of brutal, unwilling exposure is that women try to disappear.

Amen, sister. First Amendment rights are crucially nonnegotiable, but this isn't about freedom of speech. Just as these liberties do not extend to child pornography or medical records, so should they not apply to granting wrathful exes the right to post material shared in confidence.

You can sign the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative's End Revenge Porn petition here.

Images: Jorge Gonzalez/Flickr; WiffleGif (3)