I think we can all agree that “revenge porn” – a subset of non-consensual pornography – is a bad thing that should be stopped. I think we can all agree that the state has a legitimate interest in penalizing those who distribute “revenge porn.” But it is just bad policy to make interactive content providers criminally liable for user generated content, as one proposal to criminalize “revenge porn” federally would do.
Think about this for a minute. A massive portion of the web is user-generated content. That is all Facebook and Twitter is – user-generated content. This does not even include comments on news websites and blogs – many of which use Facebook for comments. Congress recognized it was a bad idea to hold interactive content providers responsible for user-generated content in 1996, well before user generated content was as big as it is today. Why can they not see that now? Have they somehow become less informed about the Internet than they were two decades ago?
Might I suggest a more nefarious motive? Congress does not like the “little people” being able to broadcast criticism of them. If you greatly restrict user-generated content and make interactive content providers afraid of the long arm of the federal government, the “Wild West” of the Internet becomes easier to control and manage. Let there be no doubt about it: That is the endgame here.
Could it be that you have knuckleheads who do not understand what they are regulating, or what their regulations would do to the product they want to regulate? I would have believed that twenty years ago. Today? I find that highly implausible. Virtually every elected official from the state level on up has some sort of internet presence – not just a campaign website but a Facebook and Twitter account too. Many are also on Instagram.
So let’s strip away the excuses and see this proposal for what it really is. This is not about “revenge porn” at all. This is about nothing more than censoring political speech and criminalizing dissent. Do not be distracted by the low hanging fruit. Always look at the motives and how things like this expand government power.