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Navy, Marines Ban Distributing Nude Photos Without Consent Amid Scandal

The prohibition comes in the wake of a nude photo scandal that rocked the military in March.
Image: Female Marines Take On Challenges in Afghanistan
A female Marine.Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

The Navy and the Marine Corps have officially banned service members from distributing nude or otherwise intimate photos without the consent of the person depicted — a move that comes in the wake of a nude photo scandal that rocked the military last month.

An interim revision to Navy regulations now prohibits the non-consensual or "wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image" by personnel. The Navy Times, which first reported the story, said the revision was made public in an all-Navy message on Tuesday. The revision was dated Monday.

A Navy spokeswoman told NBC News on Wednesday afternoon that the addition "serves to underscore leadership's commitment to eliminating degrading behaviors that erode trust and weaken the Navy and Marine Corps Team."

"It provides commanders another tool to maintain good order and discipline by holding Sailors and Marines accountable for inappropriate conduct in the non-consensual sharing of intimate imagery," Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the head of the Navy's Office of Information, said in a statement.

Related: Female Senators Fiercely Question Marine Chief Over Nude Photo Scandal

The revision said distribution of an intimate image is considered "wrongful" if a service member shares it "without legal justification or excuse, knows or reasonably should know that the depicted person did not consent to the disclosure, and the intimate image is distributed or broadcast."

The images cannot be distributed with the intention to "realize personal gain," humiliate or harass the person depicted, or with "reckless disregard" to whether the person would be humiliated or harmed, according to the revision.

According to The Navy Times, these additions amount to a lawful order, which can lead to non-judicial punishments to general courts martial.

The Navy told NBC News that the article adds a potential charge for "failure to obey order or regulation" to the charges that can be used against an alleged suspect.

"Each case of alleged misconduct will be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances," Cutler said.

The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to request for comment on Thursday.

The move follows the initial exposing of a secret Facebook group in which current and former Marines shared photos of female service members without their knowledge or consent — with some including violent or obscene comments about the women.

Related: Marines Photo Scandal: What Can Revenge Porn Victims Do?

The "Marines United" Facebook page and shared drives where the photos were distributed came to light last month after it was reported by the War Horse, a nonprofit news organization run by Thomas Brennan, himself a Marine veteran, and published by the Center for Investigative Reporting on March 4.

Since then, a number of current and former female service members have come forward to say their images were distributed without their consent, prompting investigations by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Army Criminal Investigation Command, according to The Associated Press.

And just two weeks ago, two male Marines were demoted and about two dozen other military members were being investigated in connection with the nude photos found online, the first administrative punishments from the photo scandal, according to the AP.

Last month, the Marine Corps updated its social media guidelines, saying that existing orders "have long prohibited sexual or other harassment" and that "sexual misconduct related to indecent viewing, visual recording, or broadcasting" was punishable conduct.