“Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act” Generates Negative Industry Responses

The “Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act” (SISEA) has received negative responses from adult industry members and professionals

The main goal of the “Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act” or SISEA (which is what we will call it from now on, that name is a mouthful) was made to prevent the uploading of pornographic images online without the consent of individuals in the images. The bill was introduced by senators Merkley and Sasse with the intention to cut down on child sexual abuse acts and revenge pornography taking place online. Unfortunately, the language in their proposal is lacking any indication that it will help victims, and instead seems to further victimize children by implying the age of consent for sexual acts could potentially be the age of consent to pornographic images.

The biggest problems with SISEA and why it needs to be tossed out

We will be taking lines from the legal document on SISEA, and explaining why they are problematic to the adult industry as well as the minors and non-consenting victims of revenge pornography that this bill is claiming to aim to protect.

  1. the term ‘‘pornographic image’’ means any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct. This line in SISEA will impact not only the adult industry as a whole, but the entirety of the internet. Gaming and game streaming, graphic design, video creators, and more will be impacted by these changes. Gaming specifically will be greatly impacted by this because as stated in SISEA, computer generated images of sexually explicit conduct fall under the scope of this bill. If you are someone who streams games or records “Let’s Play” style videos you may find yourself in hot water over releasing computer generated sexually graphic imagery due to this bill. This line of SISEA also impacts anime and hentai, which is a very popular niche interest online. This proposal could turn your basic interests in games and animations into a debate over whether the games or shows are “pornographic” and brings into question what documentation would be needed to create that content as well as reproduce reactionary or live stream content including those images or videos.
  2. IN GENERAL. —A covered platform shall require any user who uploads a pornographic image to the platform to— (A) verify— (i) the identity of the user; and (ii) that the user is not less than the minimum age required to consent to sexual acts under the law of the State in which the user resides. If you read that line (and many professionals have and agree) it claims that in order to have sexually explicit content uploaded online that the user in the image must not be less than the minimum age required to consent to sexual acts in their state. While federal law dictates that the age of pornographic consent is 18 years of age and older, this piece of SISEA could be a potential “loophole” for posting pornographic content of minors completely legally. Federal law should supersede this loophole but law is not often a black and white scenario, the allowance in this proposal creates a gray area that child groomers and traffickers would likely try to take advantage of if they were being charged. Additionally, with law we often don’t know the outcome of a legal loophole like this until a case is tried which would set a precedent. This line of SISEA alone should be enough to have the entire act tossed out. Nothing about this line indicates the creators have any intentions to protect children, with the age of sexual consent in many states being just 16 years old.
  3. IN GENERAL. —A covered platform shall operate a 24-hour telephone hotline that an individual or an authorized representative of an individual, or a law enforcement officer, can contact to request removal of a pornographic image from the platform if the individual appears in the pornographic image and has not consented to the pornographic image being uploaded to the platform. This line of SISEA creates a major issue for the legal adult industry workers that do collaborative content. Using (and potentially abusing) these hotlines, anyone online can claim that they did not consent to being in a video or photo with the uploader and this claim will not be disputed correctly most likely because of the lines following the aforementioned due to the two hour deadline given to remove infringing content: the platform shall remove the pornographic image from the platform as quickly as possible, and in any event not later than 2 hours after receiving the notice.
  4. PROHIBITION ON DOWNLOADS. —On and after the date that is 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, a covered platform may not permit the download to a retrievable data file of any pornographic image from the platform. Pornography can no longer be downloaded. If you read our first point, a “pornographic image” can be many different things. This could impact video games, online video content and video streaming platforms, even digital art!
  5. ESTABLISHMENT. —Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall establish a database of individuals who have indicated that they do not consent to the uploading to any covered platform of any pornographic images in which the individuals appear. This line appears to devalue any 2257 documentation / model release given for adult content and simply says “hey if they don’t want to be online anymore, they don’t have to be!” This will negatively impact almost every professional and indie porn producers that does collaborative content. There are seemingly no checks and balances for being put onto this list and not voiding any 2257s and model releases you may have signed prior to being put on the list.
  6. Some other important things to note are that the language of this bill implies that it is retroactive, and within it there are 14 days given to become compliant. Meaning if you don’t have your 2257 documentation (YOU ALWAYS SHOULD!) that you need to contact every single person that you have filmed or been photographed with sexually to get consent from them to upload. Additionally, the new requirements under this act would require specification on WHERE the content could be uploaded, which means if your previous model releases didn’t mention the websites you would be posting to they are voided under this act and you would need to request a new one from the performer. This could create problems for performers who have collaborated and had a falling out with the performer or if they are no longer able to contact the performer (for example: the performer could be incarcerated, or could have passed away.)

    TL;DR, what do I do about SISEA?

    SISEA is a dangerous proposal with legal language that could be interpreted in many ways, and if it isn’t entirely tossed out it should be heavily amended. Join the adult industry in fighting SISEA and protecting minors online by helping to dismantle this potentially catastrophic act that could further harm minors and legal participants of sexual acts online.

    Contact Jeff Merkley – You can tweet Jeff at @SenJeffMerkley. You can also reach out to Jeff on Facebook. There is also a contact form on his website.

    Contact Ben Sasse – You can reach Ben Sasse through the contact form on his website.

    When contacting Merkley or Sasse make sure you clearly indicate the problems you have with the “Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act,” some examples include: language that is contradictory to federal laws that could potentially endanger minors, unclear definitions of what qualifies as pornographic content which could negatively impact many communities, creating legal loopholes that devalue federal laws and rulings, creating retroactive laws that are not able to be properly upheld, delegating child pornography and revenge porn laws to a state level rather than a federal level, concerns over pornographic content no longer being available for download, legal adult workers being negatively impacted by the vague nature of the wording.

    Find and Contact Your Senator – Ask your senators to speak out and vote against SISEA. You can find your senators and their websites here.

    Spread Awareness Online – Many people do not realize how damaging laws like this can be until they are enacted and begin to make changes, stop the problem BEFORE it happens by spreading awareness about the negative things SISEA could cause. Post to social media, create blog posts, and tag your states legal representatives.

    Additional Resources regarding SISEA and how to stop it!

    Adult Industry Laborers and Artists S.5054 Information Campaign – Contains information about SISEA and more contact information for Senate Committee Members likely to hear our concerns.
    The legal stuff – The entire act that you can read and fact check.
    Send a message using ResistBot – Clicking the link will take you to Twitter where you will provided ResistBot with your information and they will contact your senators for you!