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Charlevoix County Prosecutor Greg Justis prosecuted a Bloomfield Hills man on a revenge porn case in 2015 against a Charlevoix County woman. The Oakland County man posted several nude photos of his former girlfriend to a revenge porn website after they broke up, and then violated a personal protection order she obtained against him in Charlevoix County. Justis said the revenge porn legislation did not exist at that time, "but clearly he did it to shame his victim, and intended to terrorize and harass."

The biggest problem with the revenge porn statute, according to Justis, is that it is a misdemeanor. "Revenge porn is a tool of control, to shame and harass and intimidate a victim. It is not a means of entertainment like traditional pornography. The new (Michigan) statute did not use that language," he said. However, he acknowledged it can be useful when used in conjunction with other statutes. "Legislation like this brings great awareness and advocacy along with it. This legislation was worked on by so many people, and that's an enormously important thing. Revenge porn (statute) addresses the seriousness and the depth of violence that is violated."

The case involving the Bloomfield Hills man ultimately did not end up going to trial in 2016, as scheduled, even though he violated the PPO again and reposted more images to another revenge porn site, Justis said, because of logistical and emotional concerns for the victim, who was then a college student, "who felt shamed and victimized. We worked out a deferral agreement with the defendant in exchange for his going to a specific counselor, and he had to complete it. We had the victim agree to this."

While most revenge porn is posted by a former partner, it can also happen by hackers, or a computer repairman who is working on a computer and releases the images, attorney Bristow said, or "even when a new girlfriend sees it and in jealousy releases it."

The Communications Decency Act, also known as Section 230, shields websites and service providers from liability for content posted by users, providing they are not the ones that have co-created the content. If the content doesn't violate any copyright or federal criminal laws, the sites are not obligated under Section 230 to remove the content. And ironically, an estimated 80 percent of the photos and videos posted to sites are taken by the victims themselves in the form of selfies.

Reputable social media sites have all become very aware of Section 230, and the potential liability it implies. "Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, they're all reputable and will readily remove content within 24 hours of notifying them that involuntary pornography has been posted," Bristow said. Further, "if you notify Google that something is involuntary pornography, they'll often immediately remove it from their search engine."

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Tags: LONGFORM

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