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Al Franken wants to put a stop to revenge porn

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

Michael Hicks/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It’s still unclear what, exactly, Franken wants the FBI to do.

Despite the landmark 18-year conviction Friday of revenge porn kingpin Kevin Bollaert, the phenomenon of revenge porn isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) doesn’t think the FBI has been doing enough to fight the scourge of nonconsensual naked images.

Franken, the senior Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey requesting a detailed breakdown of the bureau’s plans to fight revenge porn and the authorities it possessed to do so.

In the letter, Franken said he was “deeply concerned by reports of individuals, mostly women, having explicit images of themselves posted on websites when they did not consent to their disclosure.”

In asking the FBI to “provide information on any limitations in current law that… may have prevented the FBI from conducting investigations and making arrests” in revenge porn cases, Franken seemed to suggest that he would be open to expanding the agency’s authorities in this area.

Franken has been a longtime champion of civil liberties and the open Internet, which makes his support for enhanced government power online a curious one. Open Internet advocates, while not endorsing revenge porn, worry that any extra authority that Congress gives law enforcement will inevitably be misused.

The ACLU and other free-speech groups have fought revenge porn legislation on many occasions. In September 2014, the ACLU organized opposition to an Arizona law that the group said was “broad and confusing,” applying “to anyone who shares a nude image, not just to bad actors who intentionally invade another’s privacy.”

“States can address [revenge porn] without treading on free speech, if and only if those laws are tailored to addressing malicious invasions of privacy,” the ACLU wrote on its blog. “We’re not going to blindly trust that the government will apply this broad law responsibly, only against the ‘bad guys.'”

Franken did not call for specific grants of authority to the FBI, and he has never suggested a desire to spearhead federal revenge porn legislation in Congress. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has been working on such a bill for over a year.

In his letter to Comey, Franken praised companies like Twitter and Reddit for fighting revenge porn with new privacy protections and said he was “encouraged” by the conviction of 28-year-old revenge porn website operator Hunter Moore, who faces up to seven years in prison for his crimes.

H/T National Journal | Photo via Michael Hicks/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Eric Geller

Eric Geller

Eric Geller is a politics reporter who focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, encryption, and privacy. A former staff writer at the Daily Dot, Geller joined Politico in June 2016, where he's focused on policymaking at the White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department.