Legislator proposing bill to criminalize "revenge porn" - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

California legislator proposing federal bill to criminalize "revenge porn"

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A California congresswoman is leading the charge for federal legislation to criminalize so-called "revenge porn" web sites: but critics say this could lead to an unintended attack on First Amendment freedom-of-speech rights.

While California and a couple other states have passed laws to ban these sites on the Internet, this issue is legally a "grey area" at the federal level.

Last year, 27-year-old Kevin Bollaert of San Diego was charged with more than 30 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and extortion in connection with his alleged operation of a "revenge porn" web site, which allegedly allowed jilted ex-lovers to post explicit photos of their exes, along with their names and addresses. at one point publishing as many as 10,000 intimate images.

"I can understand why people would be upset by it, be hurt by it," Bollaert told CBS News 8 directly after he bailed out of County Jail last December.

He also explained what he considered his defense:

"Everything posted on the web site is posted by other people. It's all user-submitted content, so we shouldn't be held accountable for any of that content," he said.

While that is also the defense of many other operators of these types of web site sites, this new legislation may change that.

But not everyone's in favor of this move, voicing strong concerns it could lead to an attack on free speech rights.

"If you allow the state and federal government to restrict freedom of speech in one instance, it can expand and get more restrictive over other matters, and nobody wants that," said Texas attorney Joel Androphy."

Recent law school graduate Adam Steinbaugh has a far different tack. The innovative Southern California man uses his computer background and his own web site to track down the owners of "revenge porn" sites throughout the world, and then "outs" them in cyberspace. 

"It turns out these people don't want to be discovered, and when it's discovered they're running these web sites, they tend to shut them down," said Steinbaugh. "

"I'm turning their argument around on them. If what they are doing is freedom of speech, then what I'm doing is freedom of speech, even more so, : he added, "which is exposing what they're doing, saying they should be embarrassed by what they're doing, and alerting law enforcement, victims or just the public to this issue."

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