United States teacher fights back against 'revenge porn' | South China Morning Post
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United States teacher fights back against 'revenge porn'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 4:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 4:37am

Annmarie Chiarini's longdistance boyfriend was goading her to pose nude. The pictures would be for his eyes only, Chiarini recalls him saying, because she was so beautiful and because he missed her so much. He promised, she said, they would be stored on a compact disc and hidden in his drawer.

Chiarini believed him - until they broke up and the CD was auctioned on eBay with a link e-mailed to her friends and family. Copies were later mailed to her son's Catholic school kindergarten teacher and the department head at the college where Chiarini taught English. The images eventually wound up on a pornographic video-sharing site, earning 4,000 views in less than two weeks.

Chiarini, a single mother from Maryland, said the night her boyfriend said he was going to post the photos, she called the police in an absolute panic and tried to explain what was going on. The police, she said, responded, "So?"

I hit my low, now it’s time to fight back … I don’t want to feel that way ever again
ANNMARIE CHIARINI

Chiarini had fallen victim to what's called "revenge porn", and it's legal everywhere in the US but California and New Jersey. An increasing number of states are considering whether to make it illegal to post any sexually explicit image online without a person's permission. But groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation say they worry such proposals run foul of the US constitution's first amendment, which protects free speech.

Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who is helping states draft revenge porn laws, argues that sharing a nude picture with another person implies limited consent similar to other business transactions. "If you give your credit card to a waiter, you aren't giving him permission to buy a yacht," Franks said.

The precise scope of the problem is unclear because many victims never come forward or are frequently turned away by the police. Two of the most popular revenge sites have gone dark in recent years amid hacking allegations and a class-action lawsuit. But advocates estimate there are dozens of other sites that continue to post pornographic images without a person's consent.

And in a particularly disturbing twist, some of the sites appear to be running side businesses offering "reputation protection services": Dump US$500 into a PayPal account and maybe they will take down your photo.

As for Chiarini, she got lucky. The video-sharing site that published her photos and eBay agreed to take them down immediately. Her son's school didn't kick out the family, although it insisted on keeping the disc of nude photos in a file. And Chiarini never lost her job. She has since been working with the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, an advocacy group that targets online harassment issues, to raise awareness and help other victims.

"I hit my low, now it's time to fight back," said Chiarini. "I don't want to feel that way ever again."

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