Take A Cue From The Bezos Case
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and the world’s richest man, is in a rare position to fight a common problem. When the National Enquirer allegedly attempted to blackmail Bezos, with a threat to publish intimate emails and photos of his relationship with an actress, Bezos published the threat in its entirety. Bezos deserves credit for seeing past the personal embarrassment inherent in the situation and blowing up the alleged extortion. But as he noted, he has the means to seek justice. Innumerable other Americans who have been victimized by such schemes have no such recourse. Distribution of explicit photos without the subject’s consent, known as “sextortion” or “revenge porn,” is yet another unsavory development of the digital age. Several lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, have been trying for years to outlaw the practice. Pennsylvania is among 42 states with laws against “revenge porn.” The state law defines it as a misdemeanor carrying up to a year in prison and a fine of $5,000 if the subject is an adult, and up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the subject is a minor. But the state law contains many restrictions and, nationwide, the state statutes vary widely. Congress should take a cue from the Bezos case and outlaw, nationally, nonconsensual use of intimate images, texts and emails, including strong potential sentences and fines.