Monday, September 01, 2014

"Involuntary porn", not necessarily just for "revenge", could motivate serious challenges to Section 230


Ezra Klein has tweeted a link to a Vox Media story about “involuntary porn, which is related to revenge porn but broader in scope and implications, link here. The title is “Jennifer Lawrence isn’t the only victim of involuntary porn”.  Involuntary porn can include without-permission posting of compromising selfies, or of photos taken by the poster without the subject’s awareness.  It usually isn’t motivated by revenge, but by the desire of the poster to attract attention to his own reach.
  
The article, by Kelsey McKinney, presents an interview with Mitchell V. Matorin (link), an intellectual property attorney.
  
The problem might seem related to the growing controversy over photography of people in public, or in privately owned by “publicly viewed” spaces like bars and discos where, in many parts of the country, standards of etiquette and courtesy have become tighter in the past three years or so because of concerns over social media.  But that problem is even broader, as it can involve non-nude although suggestive photos.

It is difficult to go after posters of this material legally. Copyright law does not apply if the poster took the photos himself.  “False light” privacy claims might work.  Right of publicity works only with public figures.   Litigation is time consuming and expensive and not practical for most subjects. And digital copies of images are likely to be passed around and reposted forever.
  
McKinney talks a lot about how Section 230 does often compromise getting photos removed.  He says that Google did bring down the search rankings of “mugshots.com” (link) on its own, so he thinks Google could do more, at least in search engine placement, with unwelcome photos. 

Again, this sounds like a very important issue, because it could lead us down the road of existential challenges to Section 230 and the whole world of UGC (user-generated content, without gatekeepers) as we know it now. 

Downstream liability protections is a subject I mentioned as insufficiently covered in my own letter to Vox on Aug 26, so seeing this article tells me that Vox takes it seriously.  


Update: later today

Later Sept. 1, both ABC and NBC news broadcasts emphasized the face that Lawrence's (as were other celebrities') photos were hacked from Apple Cloud storage, so the legal aspects of the problem certainly would take into account this fact. 

NBC News offered some analysis in this video:



Many of the photos were apparently  published on "4chan" which right now seems unreachable because of traffic. .

CNN offered a rather balanced perspective here.

Update: Sept. 3

Mike Isaac of the New York Times weighs in on the privacy and free speech (downstream liability) issues today here. 


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