Two Senators Launch Joint Bill Proposing Massive Adult Site Regs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bipartisan bill Friday calling for extensive new regulations on adult websites.

Dubbed the "Stop Internet Sexual Explotation Act," the bill was prompted, according to an announcement from Sasse's office, by "disturbing reports of how videos and photos are uploaded to websites like Pornhub without the consent of individuals who appear in them—haunting and traumatizing victims."

Without detailing the "reports" it references, the announcement would by all appearances be in response to the charges filed Tuesday against Pornhub parent company MindGeek alleging that the company knowingly hosted and profited from the nonconsensual videos over which website GirlsDoPorn was prosecuted last January (and to which performer/producer Ruben Andre Garcia pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to produce in a separate, ongoing federal case). 

Among the regulations the new bill seeks to enact are:

• Requiring platforms hosting pornography to, within two weeks of enactment:
- Require any user uploading a video to the platform to verify their identiry
- Require any user uploading a video to the platform also upload a signed consent form from every individual appearing in the video
• Creating a private right of action against an uploader who uploads a pornographic image without the consent of an individual featured in the image
• Requiring platforms hosting pornography to include a notice or banner on the website instructing how an individual can request removal of a video if an individual has not consented to it being uploaded on the platform
• Prohibiting video downloads from these platforms, to be in place within three months of enactment of the legislation
• Requiring platforms hosting pornography to offer a 24-hour hotline staffed by the platform, for individuals who contact the hotline to request removal of a video that has been distributed without their consent
- Requiring removal of flagged videos within two hours of such a request
• Requiring platforms to use software to block a video from being re-uploaded after its removal, which must be in place within six months of enactment of the legislations
• Directing the Federal Trade Commission to enforce violations of these requirements
• Creating a database of individuals who have indicated they do not consent, which must be checked before new content can be uploaded to platforms
- Instructing the Department of Justice to promulgate rules on where this database should be housed, and determine how to connect victims with services, to include couseling and casework
- Establishing that failure to comply with this requirement will result in a civil penalty to the platform, with proceeds going towards victim services

Commented Sasse in the announcement of the bill, "Human dignity matters. A decent society has an obligation to fight sexual exploitation and human trafficking. ... Our bill is aimed squarely at the monsters who profit from rape. Washington outght to be able to come together to combat human trafficking and make this right."

Added Merkley, "The posting of intimate photos and videos without participants' consent is a massive invasion of privacy that drives shame, humiliation, and potentially suicide. While some online platforms have recently announced steps to change some practices, much more needs to be done. We must ensure that not another single life of a child, man, or woman is destroyed by these sites."

The full text of the bill is available here.