The ITIF’s Confusion on Free Speech and Revenge Porn

A progressive think tank focused on promoting technology, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, decided to take a blind leap into the nasty waters of internet speech and revenge porn. It issued a report, written by ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro and research assistant Alan McQuinn, entitled Why and How
Congress Should Outlaw Revenge Porn.

Why and how ITIF and Castro thought themselves qualified to write such a report remains a mystery, but then, when it comes to this particular subject, mysteries abound.  Like why Mary Anne Franks blocked Eric Turkewitz and Jay Wolman on the twitters for asking why she claimed false rape claims were “infinitesimal” when the report she cited to put them at 45%.  Of course, a real discussion can be found at Data Gone Odd, but I digress.

Fusion reported on the ITIF report with a particularly curious title, due to one of the proposals in the report that the FBI create a special group for handling revenge porn claims.

But the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, thinks legislators, after passing a federal ban, need to do even more to protect victims of nonconsensual nudes. In a report published Wednesday, the ITIF demanded the creation of a special FBI unit that would help revenge porn victims and put pressure on tech companies to develop best practices for quickly removing law-violating content from their sites.

“Despite the seriousness of the problem, victims have inadequate means available to fight back,” the report said. “Most victims cannot easily stop the spread of the images or take action against the perpetrator. Indeed, many of these images remain online forever.”

Most victims can’t stop police bullets from striking their heads either. Apparently, it’s all relative to a think tank that Fusion deems non-partisan.  But this recommendation didn’t cause too much concern, as it could easily be subsumed under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security’s Micro-Aggression Task Force.

What did catch my eye was this line out of the Fusion post:

Free speech advocates have long fought against revenge porn bans, arguing that a ban is a blow to freedom of speech. But anti-revenge porn advocates counter that a freedom of speech does not exist in a space where not everyone is safe.

Being primarily English-speaking, I struggled to discern what this meant, and turned to the original report for clarification.

Unfortunately, several civil liberty organizations such as the American Civil Liberties  Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have opposed legislative  efforts to address this problem, fearing that it could lead to infringement of free speech. And while chilling free speech is a legitimate concern for any government looking to restrain offensive activities, this myopic approach does not take into account the speech of the victims of this crime, or those who are concerned about becoming victims, who—as one anti-cyber harassment advocate, Mary Anne Franks, has smartly pointed out—have their voices silenced because of cyber harassment.

Myopic indeed. What possible use is there to constitutional limits on government when progressive feelings demand otherwise?  And this very point was emphasized when Franks, without mentioning names, announced to a self-identified feminist who questioned the blocking of Turk and Wolman for questioning the public promulgation of false claims:

 

But what did the ITIF’s disdain for constitutional inconvenience mean when it came to calling on Congress to eschew the Constitution so that no tears need ever be shed again?

To ensure that federal legislation does not criminalize less malicious behavior or infringe on free speech, it should include an intent clause and a knowledge standard.

Maybe the ITIF didn’t get the memo?  But what of the platforms used to spread this blight?

Federal legislation should not, however, change Section 230 of Title 47 of the U.S. Code,  which protects online intermediaries from being liable for the content posted by others.  Section 230 provides strong protections that allow online providers to build services  without fear that they will be held responsible for users’ actions. Upholding this protection will allow law enforcement to focus on the perpetrators of this crime, rather than the platforms they use to distribute this content.

Granted, the ITIF still doesn’t demonstrate a working understanding of the First Amendment, the chilling effect of criminalizing speech, the absence of any categorical exception to allow for criminalization or the use of such laws in unintended ways, but its rhetoric aside, these proposals are nothing like the “model law” hyped by the Franks gang.

All of which raises one huge question: how long before Mary Anne Franks blocks the ITIF on the twitters and writes a teary-eyed appeal to the emotional about how the ACLU’s unduly nice Lee Rowland must have bought off the ITIF?

10 comments on “The ITIF’s Confusion on Free Speech and Revenge Porn

  1. Martin Goodson

    Is ‘mysteries about’ in the second paragraph a typo of ‘mysteries abound’? It’s not a phrase I’ve seen before.

  2. losingtrader

    I’m struggling to figure out which would make a better Comedy Central sketch: The FBI RPU or Arpaio’s already existing Animal Exploitation Unit, trolling the net to entice prospective bestiality suspects.

  3. Jack

    Ms. Franks aside, even I cringed when I read “intent clause” and I don’t even pretend to be a lawyer on the internet.

    1. SHG Post author

      This would be so much more meaningful if you gave the slightest clue what you were trying to say. And you cringed why?

  4. Bruce Godfrey

    “boundary enforcement and personal autonomy” – sounds like an overblown way to say “not interested in what they have to say.”

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s not at all what I read. What I read is “use jargon to justify avoiding confronting anyone who might reveal my narrative to be full of shit so that I can continue to spew falsehoods with impunity to those who aren’t inclined to ask me difficult questions.”

      Not interested is fine. Avoiding being caught lying is not.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        She’s only avoiding those things she’s not interested in, like real debate and being caught lying.

  5. Pingback: Professorial Malpractice (Updated) – New York Personal Injury Law Blog

Comments are closed.