Bill to Criminalize Revenge Porn Coming After Recess

Just months after revenge porn came under John Oliver‘s withering spotlight, Congress is getting into the act with legislation to ban the practice outright.

With the recent addition of Texas, Oregon, and Vermont, half of U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C.) now have a law that addresses nonconsensual pornography. But because the laws vary so widely—some criminalize the practice entirely, while others only punish people who post compromising photos with an intent to harass the subject—some think Congress should put forward a law that would criminalize the practice of posting nonconsensual explicit images online on a federal level.

After members return from August recess, a group of lawmakers led by Rep. Jackie Speier of California will introduce legislation that would make it illegal to distribute explicit images without the consent of the subject. The House bill was coauthored by Speier, who is a Democrat, and a yet-unnamed Republican. A mirror bill will be introduced in the Senate.

Speier, a San Francisco-area representative and longtime advocate of both privacy and women’s rights, says she considers the legislation a privacy issue rather than a sexual-harassment issue.

“This is not just about jilted lovers trying to get revenge. This is about protecting an individual’s right to privacy,” she said in a phone interview. “It is something that we value in the First Amendment, and it’s something that I think cries out for a federal solution.”