The Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution (SHIELD) Act ensures that federal prosecutors have appropriate and effective tools to address serious privacy violations

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced bipartisan legislation to address the online exploitation of explicit, private images. The Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution (SHIELD) Act would provide federal law enforcement with the tools they need to crack down on serious privacy violations. The bill establishes narrow federal criminal liability for people who distribute others’ private or explicit images online without consent. The bill also fills in existing gaps in federal law so that prosecutors can hold all those who exploit children accountable. Current state laws offer incomplete and inconsistent protection for victims of image exploitation.

“We need to provide victims of online abuse with the legal protection they need and hold their exploiters accountable,” said Klobuchar. “This important legislation does just that, helping to ensure that these serious privacy violations will no longer go unpunished.” 

“Those who have had their digital privacy violated shouldn’t have to fear that their abusers will go unpunished,” said Cornyn. “Our legislation will help ensure criminals who share private images of others online, including explicit photos of children, are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”  

The SHIELD Act would:

  • Ensure that the Department of Justice has an appropriate and effective tool to address serious privacy violations;
  • Establish federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, sexually explicit or nude images without consent;
  • Fill in gaps in existing law that prevent prosecutors from holding those who share explicit images of children accountable; and
  • Protect the victims of serious privacy violations, while leaving room for sharing consensual images and images of public concern.

In 2017, Klobuchar and former Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), introduced the first version of this legislation, the bipartisan Ending Nonconsensual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act