PROTECT Act Will Aid Victims of Image-Based Sexual Abuse Against Big Porn

It only takes an instant for anyone to become a victim of image-based sexual abuse (IBSA). 

It can happen through hidden camera videos, deepfake/edited images, leaked photos, filmed child sexual abuse, rape, sex trafficking, and prostitution. 

These images can circulate fast and be posted to pornography websites, or shared without consent to other platforms, often before the victim even realizes it has happened.  

The cruel irony is that there are currently no federal laws requiring websites which allow pornography on their platforms to verify the age and consent of every person depicted in those images. This is a massive gap in the law, and one that must be and can be immediately rectified. 

Recognizing this problem after sitting down and working with survivors, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), last night introduced the Preventing Rampant Online Technological and Criminal Trafficking Act of 2022 (PROTECT Act) that would require websites allowing sexually explicit material (pornography) to obtain verified consent forms from individuals uploading content, or appearing in uploaded content, and to require websites to remove images uploaded without consent. 

See this one-page summary of the PROTECT Act.

The PROTECT Act fills a gaping hole in existing law that allows pornography to be created, uploaded, and distributed online without the consent of persons depicted in the material. This has led to the victimization of countless women and men who have few or no remedies under present law. 

Notably, the bill has robust requirements for websites to quickly remove content, and prevent re-upload of content, once they are notified the content was created or distributed without consent. Importantly, the bill adds criminal penalties for those who knowingly upload sexually explicit content without the consent of those depicted. This sends the message loud and clear that such activity is wrong, harmful, and will not be tolerated. This bill empowers IBSA victims to hold both the uploaders – and the platforms that profit from their abuse – accountable through civil remedies. 

How You Can Help:

1. Sign this petition to Members of the US Congress urging their support and passage of the PROTECT Act:

2. Survivors of IBSA are invited to sign this joint letter of support.  

Several survivors and advocates met with Senators in June to advocate for this solution.

3. Share this powerful video from survivors on social media!  

Survivors Call PROTECT Act Key to Ending Online Sexual Abuse

Two hundred survivors of image-based sexual abuse have signed a letter calling on the U.S. Congress to pass the PROTECT Act, and many are being vocal about why protections are needed. 

“Technology is updating everyday but the laws haven’t changed. We need the PROTECT Act because it will protect the future of our children, women, men and ensure that the internet is a safer environment,” said Uldouz Wallace, Actress, Survivor. 

“When I found out there have been two sexual videos of me posted on Pornhub and other pornography websites for the past 12 years, not once did I feel protected by the law. There are no laws in my state to protect survivors of image-based sexual abuse, but if this bill is put in place, it could help so many survivors like me,” said Katelynn Spencer, Survivor Leader. 

 ”Online criminal enterprises have been allowed to flourish unregulated for over a decade. Technology has surpassed the reach of our current laws. The internet and technology have become weapons in digital violence. We desperately need a federal law to protect victims against online image-based sexual abuse including edited and deepfake content. The PROTECT Act would provide this protection. Similar laws have already been passed in other countries and the U.S. is falling behind,” said Victoria Galy, Survivor, Paralegal, Mother. 

“Surviving systems of prostitution and exploitation cause immeasurable harm and trauma. It takes a lifetime to heal from the violence experienced in the sex trade and that is without having to beg websites to remove images that were taken during your abuse. The PROTECT Act will eliminate the additional trauma that many survivors have to endure as the imagery of their abuse is spread across the worldwide web. Their abuse wasn’t consensual nor was the sharing of the images of their abuse. Stand with Survivors and pass the PROTECT Act,” said Nicole M. Bell, Founder, Living in Freedom Together (LIFT), Survivor of Image-Based Sexual Abuse. 

What Will the PROTECT Act do?

The PROTECT Act gives significant provisions for empowering a person depicted in sexually explicit videos/images to have those recordings removed and obtain damages for the harm their distribution caused. The PROTECT Act:  

  • Requires covered platforms to obtain age verification for anyone who uploads content that is sufficient and independently verifiable 
  • Requires covered platforms to obtain consent for each act depicted and distribution of the specific image from each individual appearing in the content  
  • Requires covered platforms to obtain age verification from each individual appearing in the content
  • Allows eligible persons (including their authorized representative, parent/guardian, law enforcement) depicted without consent, or who have withdrawn consent, to have their image(s) removed, and block re-uploads, including any altered or edited versions  
  •  Allows individuals harmed to bring a civil action in district court to seek damages 
  • Penalizes covered platforms that fail to remove reported content, verify for age and consent, and block re-uploads

What is Image-Based Sexual Abuse?

Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) is the creating, threatening to share, sharing, or using of recordings (still images or videos) of sexually explicit or sexualized materials without the consent of the person depicted and/or for purposes of exploitation. 

Key Facts:

  • A 2017 U.S. survey conducted on Facebook, found that of 3,044 participants, 1 in 8 had been targets of the distribution, or threat of distribution, of sexually graphic images without their consent.  
  • A survey of young adults (ages 18-25) who had experienced sextortion found that approximately 40% of participants reported that their sextortion occurred online.
  • An informal survey of survivors of IBSA found they often had their full name published alongside the explicit imagery (59%), social media/network information (49%), email (26%), phone number (20%), physical home address (16%), or work address (14%.).
  • A 2017 Cyber Civil Rights Initiative survey found that compared to people without IBSA victimization, victims had “significantly worse mental health outcomes and higher levels of physiological problems,” such as high levels of anxiety, PTSD, depression, feelings of shame and humiliation, as well as loss of trust and sexual agency.

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The Numbers

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NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

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The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

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NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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