Professor Erwin Chemerinsky and Expert Panelists Support Bipartisan Federal Bill Against Nonconsensual Pornography

Four members of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) were featured speakers at the 2017 U.S. Department of Justice Cybercrime Symposium, which was held on September 15 at the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey Law School. CCRI’s former Victim Services Director Annmarie Chiarini delivered the lunchtime keynote address. Danielle Citron, a member of CCRI’s advisory board as well as the Morton & Sophia Macht Professor of Law at University of Maryland, spoke on “Balancing Free Speech Interests and Public Safety.” Mary Anne Franks, CCRI’s Vice-President and Legislative & Tech Policy Director and professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law spoke on “The Public Safety Role of Social Media and Technology Companies.” Carrie Goldberg, CCRI board member and founder of sexual privacy law firm C.A. Goldberg PLLC, spoke on “Holding Offenders Accountable.”

 CCRI’s former Victim Services Director Annmarie Chiarini

CCRI’s former Victim Services Director Annmarie Chiarini

The symposium also featured Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law and nationally distinguished scholar of constitutional law, who spoke at length on the topic of “revenge porn” and the First Amendment. Describing himself as a “staunch advocate of freedom of speech,” Chemerinsky provided a comprehensive explanation of why laws prohibiting nonconsensual pornography do not violate free speech. 

In particular, Chemerinsky voiced his unequivocal support for the Intimate Privacy Protection Act (IPPA), sponsored in 2016 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and drafted in collaboration with CCRI. *Update: The bill was re-introduced on November 28, 2017 as the Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment Act of 2017 (ENOUGH Act).* Though a number of states already have laws against nonconsensual pornography, Chemerinsky explained, “The state statutes are too weak. There really needs to be a federal statute here.”

Chemerinsky noted that his support of criminal laws against nonconsensual pornography is “one of the rare instances where I’m on the opposite side of the ACLU,” which has opposed legislation prohibiting nonconsensual pornography on free speech grounds. The ACLU has also argued that any criminal prohibition of nonconsensual pornography must require “intent to cause harm to the victim.” Chemerinsky disagreed strongly with this position, saying, “I don’t see anything in the First Amendment that says there has to be an intent to cause harm to the victim. If the material is intentionally or recklessly made publicly available, I think that is sufficient, and I don’t think it should just be about intent to cause harm to the victim. Imagine that the person is putting the material online for profit or personal gain. That should be just as objectionable as to cause harm to the victim.” Summarizing the matter succinctly, Chemerinsky stated, “Any time there’s the dissemination of sexually explicit material without consent, that should be impermissible.”

Chemerinsky also referenced the need to amend Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, which, in its current form, poses challenges in forcing internet providers to remove sexually explicit images disseminated without consent. 

To learn more about and support CCRI’s work to end nonconsensual pornography, visit us here