CLBR #234: Mary Anne Franks on Fighting Cyber Exploitation and Fundamentalism

University of Miami Law Professor and Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Vice President Mary Anne Franks returns to CLBR provide an update on the battle over Cyber Exploitation (more commonly known as Revenge Porn).

H.R. 5896: Intimate Privacy Protection Act


Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), joined by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Ryan Costello (PA-6), Walter Jones (R-NC), John Katko (R-NY), Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Thomas Rooney (R-FL),  introduced the Intimate Privacy Protection Act (IPPA) to create a national ban on revenge porn.

Specifically, IPPA would make it illegal for an individual to knowingly distribute sexually explicit material with reckless disregard for the victim’s lack of consent. The bill recognizes that the distribution of non-consensual pornography is a privacy violation, as non-consensual pornography is not always about revenge or harassment. 
The bill is supported by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative; Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; National Democratic Institute; National Organization for Women; Feminist Majority; Girls, Inc.; Facebook; and Twitter.  The Internet Law Center also support this important legislation.

34 State Laws, But Not Rhode Island

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A total of 34 states have passed laws to address non-consensual pornography, although their approaches vary widely.  On June 20th, Rhode Island’s first woman Governor, Gina Raimondo, became the first Governor to veto revenge porn legislation.

While the bill contains exceptions if the image is disseminated for a lawful purpose or in the public interest or when the dissemination of the image is a matter of public concern, none of these terms are defined, making it unclear what conduct is prohibited. Ultimately, that determination would be left to a jury in a criminal case. The bill is apparently intended to curb the dissemination of private sexual material over the internet, but its sweep is much broader it could also cover works of art that depict the human body. And, unlike virtually all other similar state statutes, 7537 does not include basic safeguards such as the requirement that intent to harass be demonstrated for conduct to be criminal.

Fighting Fundamentalists on Left and Right

Frank is a critic of First Amendment fundamentalists who ignore the range of ways women and racial minorities are silenced by sexist and racist harassment, from revenge porn to hate speech.  “We should be much more reflective about the First Amendment, its complexity, and its limitations.”

She is also criticizes Second Amendment fundamentalist.

The Right’s passionate defenders of the right to bear arms are notably silent when black men bearing arms are stopped, harassed, and killed by police and when women use firearms to defend themselves against domestic violence.  Such selective and self-interested appropriation does not honor either the text or the spirit of the Constitution. Principled commitment to the Constitution must be both grounded in the promise of equal protection and developed through reasoned debate.

She is an outspoken critic of open carry laws.

Cyber Exploitation/Revenge Porn Background and Resources

  • “The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and the Fight Against Revenge Porn” with Mary Anne Franks – Cyber Law and Business Report (February 10, 2015)
  • “Voices of Revenge Porn” – Cyber Law and Business Report (July 31, 2013)
  • Without My Consent Release Guide for Intimate Image Take Downs

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About Prof. Franks

Dr. Mary Anne Franks is a law professor, activist, and Krav Maga instructor. She is a Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, where she teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, First Amendment law, and family law.
She is the Legislative & Tech Policy Director and Vice-President of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging online harassment and abuse. In that capacity, she has worked with legislators in more than two dozen states to draft legislation against the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images, and is also working with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) on a federal criminal bill, the Intimate Privacy Protection Act.
She is also a co-producer of the documentary Hot Girls Wanted (produced by the actress Rashida Jones), which examines the “professional amateur” porn industry.
Before joining the UM faculty, Dr. Franks was a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago School of Law and a Lecturer at Harvard University. Dr. Franks received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2007. She received her D.Phil in 2004 and M.Phil in 2001 from Oxford University, where she studied on a Rhodes Scholarship. She received her B.A. in philosophy and English from Loyola University New Orleans in 1999. She is originally from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.