Google Policy Fellowship applications due March 15, 2013

Kate Sheerin is a Policy Analyst at Google

This Friday is the last day to apply for the 2013 Google Policy Fellowship—all applications must be submitted by March 15, 2013 at midnight PST. Please visit the website for application and program details.

The Google Policy Fellowship supports students and organizations working on the critical technology policy issues of our time. Fellows will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on broadband and access policy, content regulation, copyright and trademark reform, consumer privacy, open government, and more. The Google Policy Fellowship is open to students of all levels and disciplines.

Good luck on your application!

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The Legal Landscape of Involuntary Porn

Erica Johnstone is a co-founder of the privacy nonprofit, Without My Consent, and a partner with Ridder, Costa & Johnstone LLP.

Imagine there are naked photos of you online that appear on the first page of search results when someone searches for your name. The images are linked to your true name, place of business, and home address. Worse still, every hate-filled troll has piled on to harass and stalk you. The comments leave you terrified for your and your family’s personal safety. Is the perpetrator’s conduct legal? Generally speaking, no. “Involuntary porn”, also called “revenge porn,” is the creation, publication, or dissemination of a person’s private intimate image without that person’s consent and for no legitimate public concern. It is legally actionable in almost every situation. Is there a path to justice? It’s complicated.

Your first question might be: how do the images get online? The most common scenarios are nightmare exes, hackers, and peeping Toms.

And then you might wonder, how many people are actually victims of involuntary porn? We need better data and more of it data to provide a satisfactory answer. Concrete examples like those cited above are sometimes criticized for being “one-off” events. But the truth is that everyone who engages in online activities knows the harassment, stalking, and trolling happen with alarming frequency, and abuse often involves the publication or threat of publication of private intimate images.

According to a recent McAfee study, “Love, Relationships, and Technology: When Private Data Gets Stuck in the Middle of a Breakup,” 10% of ex-partners have threatened to expose risqué photos of their exes online, and those threats were carried out almost 60 percent of the time. 36% of Americans plan to send sexy or romantic photos to their partners via email, text and social media on Valentine’s Day. But those people are not the only victims of involuntary porn. Hackers and peeping Toms have a way of finding photos and posting online as well. For instance on January 29, 2013, the FBI arrested one man whom investigators estimate is responsible for terrorizing more than 350 women.

What is being done about the problem?

  • There is a lawsuit pending against the revenge porn site seeking actual and punitive damages and injunctive relief for invasion of privacy, negligence, wrongful appropriation of names of likenesses, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy, on the basis that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not immunize websites that are themselves responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of unlawful content.
  • There is anticipated copyright litigation against the revenge porn site, on the basis that even if the website is immunized against some claims by Section 230, the website may be vulnerable to intellectual property–related claims such as those arising under copyright law.
  • University of Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks is working on a proposed law to criminalize the misconduct at the federal level (which would not be immunized by section 230). She outlines her proposal here.
  • Without My Consent (a non-profit I co-founded) is working to publish and keep updated an informational website,, that includes legal and practical information for victims of involuntary porn and the attorneys who advocate on their behalf. WMC is currently undertaking a 50-State survey to compile a comprehensive overview of the possible civil claims that a victim of such conduct might explore, and the potential criminal consequences of the unlawful conduct, in each jurisdiction.

Here are some simple concrete steps everyone can take to stop involuntary porn.

  • Speak out about the fact that privacy is worth protecting.
  • Enact a criminal invasion of privacy statute in every state that doesn’t already have one. New Jersey has a noteworthy Invasion of Privacy statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-9y int, which prohibits both recording and disclosing a private image of another person without consent. If your state does not already have a criminal invasion of privacy law on the books, you may petition your state lawmakers to pass a law modeled after N.J.S.A. 2C:14-9 in your state.
  • If the prosecution of technology-related crimes is an issue that matters to you, contact your state’s Attorney General and let him/her know that the residents of your state believe privacy matters. Begin a dialogue in your state. There is already a model in place, developed by the state of California. In 2011, the California DOJ created an eCrime Unit that: (1) trains police and prosecutors in light of new technologies; and (2) prosecutes criminal online invasions of privacy, among other crimes.
  • Sign up for Without My Consent’s Weekly Roundup, featuring articles, posts, interviews and more for those interested in the news most relevant to our advocacy.
  • You may support Without My Consent and its education efforts such as the 50-State Project and the Weekly Roundup by making a donation today.

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Apply for a 2013 Google Policy Fellowship

Nicklas Lundblad is Director of Public Policy at Google.

The Internet policy world is ripe with fascinating issues. From cybercrime to government surveillance and security, to public procurement, trade and open access to information, there has never been a more exciting time to get involved. We’re excited to launch the 6th summer of the Google Policy Fellowship, with new opportunities to work with organizations from Africa, Europe and Latin America in addition to ones in U.S. and Canada. Applications are open today, and students of all levels and disciplines are welcome to apply before March 15, 2013.

Fellows will spend ten weeks this summer working on a broad portfolio of topics at a diverse set of organizations, including:



Latin America

North America

You can learn about the program, application process and host organizations on the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.
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