You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Band-Aid

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

Recently, I’ve been hearing a great deal about “Revenge Porn.” Hopefully, very few of you have heard of this particular “thing” and even fewer of you have become victims of same. Basically revenge porn is the act of taking private photos and videos of your significant other and enjoying them while you’re in a relationship. Of course, as most relationships are destined to end (and probably end badly), these artifacts are taken by the aggrieved party (i.e., the one that was dumped) and put on the Internet for the entire world to see. Kind of ugly, right?
When these pictures and videos show up, there is a massive outcry from the dumper. They were private, they can’t be shown to everyone, what if my parents or new significant other sees these and what if my boss or co-workers find out? These are not inconsiderable questions.
Of course, the quickest and easiest way to avoid this issue is to never take these types of pictures and videos. Sure, the relationship will last forever, and you know the other person so well; or at least well enough to know they are incapable of doing something THAT horrible. Ignore those voices and just don’t do it.
But if you do decide to, erm, SMILE for the camera, know that a number of states (Maryland being one of them) and the federal government have legislation in the pipeline to criminalize the distribution of revenge porn. Already, some of the efforts have borne fruit, as websites for a few of the major purveyors of the genre have been shut down.
An issue that comes up from time to time with this type of legislation is that, in its haste to outlaw or criminalize an act that is in the public good, is that the legislation becomes too broad. Unintended consequences as they are known arise and the entire law is either thrown out, or many amendments to the law have to be submitted, wasting time and energy.
As an example, many years back in Pennsylvania, there was a problem with video poker machines. This issue was the focus of a state and federal investigation and, in the end, it was found that one of the Commonwealth’s former attorneys general (and a candidate for governor at one point) as caught up in the situation. He was accepting bribes as AG to turn his head in areas where these machines proliferated.
Thus, after the politician was safely ensconced in a federal penitentiary, the state legislature decided to put to bed the question of video poker games once and for all. So they drafted, voted on and passed into law an Act prohibiting mechanical games of chance within the borders of the Commonwealth. That sounds like a great plan. Who could not be in favor of that?
Well, turns out that the Northwest corner of the state had a port. And that port employed a lot of people and made a decent amount of money repairing ships. Ships that cruised the other Great Lakes offering gambling excursions. Needless to say, those ships, on occasion, needed to be maintained or repaired. Guess what port was able to do the repairing or maintaining?
The port in Pennsylvania.
With the stroke of a pen, the business of repairing and maintain these ships had to go to another port in another state. You see, because said mechanical gambling devices were illegal in Pennsylvania, they were prohibited everywhere in the Commonwealth. Thus, even though there was legitimate activity conducted on ships in Pennsylvania (with the gambling machines disconnected), the port was no longer able to conduct its business as it pertained to those vessels. Needless to say, jobs and revenues hung in the balance until the bill was amended (after a few public hearings, debates, committee work, etc.) Now, of course, this is all moot because Pennsylvania has slot machines, but I digress.
As noted earlier, it is difficult to craft legislation. It’s even more difficult when you try to write a bill that has a very specific, very narrow circumstance the legislature wants to correct or prohibit. Sometimes, though not very often, the legislature hits a home run and creates something that does what it’s supposed to do and nothing more. However, those events are few and far between – likely what we’ll end up with is a very broad definition of what constitutes revenge porn, and most pictures and videos will be banned from the internet.
Until the amendments come, of course.


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