Conducting research with Dr. Magaldi these past two semesters has been an incredible experience. We started out with a broad topic and really didn’t know where it would take us, but were able to navigate through a number of subtopics to fully focus on the issue that intrigued me the most. Our two working titles had been “Revenge Pornography: How States are Combating Instances where Technology meets Misogyny” and “Revenge Porn: The Name Doesn’t Do Non-Consensual Pornography Justice and the Remedies Don’t Offer the Victims Justice.” However, I felt that neither of these were specific enough to really focus on the core of the issue and I decided to delve deeper into the issue. I realized that most perpetrators are able to get away with these crimes due to the loopholes in the cyber world, particularly Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
To give a brief overview, Section 230 states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of information provided by another information content provider.” In other words, if a website is hosting certain material on their page they will NOT be held responsible or liable for such material if they did not create it. There are certain exceptions when it comes to topics such as child pornography or human trafficking which are federal cases – however, there is no remedy for revenge pornography. Numerous victims have been left devastated and taken these tech giants to court after their explicit photos have been kept on these sites after numerous request to take them down. I was shocked to learn just how much immunity internet service providers, blogs, and social media websites received. Many of them openly published revenge pornography that humiliated and ruined the lives of numerous men and women – and they could get away with this due to a federal law.
It took time for me to fully understand Section 230 (and although there is still a lot that can be learned from it), Dr. Magaldi was able to guide me through understanding what it meant. She shared a number of her own publications that touched on the matter, podcasts from other experts, and her research. This is where the idea came to focus on this one crucial law and analyze how it can be expanded to impose liability and hold those who are propagating revenge porn online. It’s a very complicated issue because Section 230 is what has allowed the internet to form as it is today. If there are restrictions imposed on websites and ISPs, there will be much much less content online and a possible violation of free speech. There must be a balance between web freedom and accountability, and our research focused on what can be done to protect both.
Dr. Magaldi and I met in-person every couple of weeks to discuss our advancement in the research and new ideas. Since the closing of the Pace campus, we have continued to regularly meet on Zoom to continue working on our project. The pandemic disaster has not had much of a negative effect on our research and we continue to work on our project diligently. I am excited to be presenting our research in two weeks in front of fellow students and faculty members, and share what I have been able to take away away from this project. I hope to continue working with Dr. Magaldi and taking this research further than we already have.