The House just passed a bill to prevent another Marines United scandal

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Protecting the Rights of Individuals Against Technological Exploitation Act, the first major piece of legislation addressing March's Marines United nude photo sharing scandal

According to Jezebel, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced the bill in April with the aim of making it more explicit that nonconsensual nude photo sharing is a crime, a stipulation that had never been spelled out before in the law. 

The bill, also known as the PRIVATE Act, also seeks to close a loophole in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that Jezebel reported "technically allowed service members to share intimate photos with others if the photos had been taken consensually."

"The Neanderthals who committed these acts are not emblematic of the vast majority of decent and honorable service members who serve our nation," McSally said Wednesday. "However, the notion that any service member would think it is acceptable to upload, view, or comment on nude photos of their fellow service members is a serious problem that must be fixed."

Sen. John MCain shakes hands with General Robert Neller before a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on the Marines' nude photo scandal in March.
Source: 
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The House's attempt to safeguard against another nude photo sharing scandal in the military arrives on the heels of Facebook's apparent failure to do so.

Mic's previous reporting recently found that the site's revenge porn policy may not be explicit enough to address such an incident. According to Facebook's guidelines, the site condemns nonconsensual nude photo-sharing only if the sharer's intent is to "shame or embarrass" the photo's subject.

Miami law professor and Cyber Civil Rights Initiative legislative and tech policy director Mary Anne Franks said that because the Marines United Facebook group was kept secret, it suggests users had a different motive for sharing the photos that Facebook doesn't acknowledge.

"By Facebook's own definition, it would seem that the Marines United group didn't violate the 'revenge porn' policy," Franks said. "While Facebook did shut the group down after its activities were exposed in the media, its policy indicates that nonconsensual pornography is permissible if the reason for sharing the images is entertainment, profit or an effort to raise one's social status."

Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, said in an email that the company was doing everything in its power to "make Facebook as safe as possible while enabling free speech," and said it's working on adding tools to make it easier for users to report abuse.

Meanwhile, the PRIVATE Act will get folded into the next draft of the National Defense Authorization Act, the federal military budget proposal that both the House and Senate vote on annually.

Representatives in the House are confident that the budget will pass along with their new legislation.

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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