A northeast Queens lawmaker has teamed up with another state legislator from across the aisle to draft a bill cracking down on the sharing of sexually explicit pictures, also known as “revenge porn.”
The legislation, introduced in part by state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), was written in response to a new wave of photo-sharing fit for the 21st century, where intimate pictures originally taken with an expectation of privacy are later disseminated in the form of revenge. Braunstein announced the bill along with state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo (R-Rome), making what the lawmakers called revenge porn a criminal act.
“Disseminating sexually explicit images that were shared with an expectation of privacy can cause lasting damage to victims and should be a crime,” Braunstein said. “Passage of this legislation would make it clear that New Yorkers will not allow this type of harassment to continue. With the proliferation of cellphones and social networking, this problem will only get worse if we do not take immediate action.”
The lawmakers said they drafted the bill to suit the present day, when seemingly everyone lives on the screens of their smartphones and sometimes share sexually explicit photos with one another. The term “revenge porn” derives from an act in which originally consensual explicit images are widely dispersed without permission, an act that could be damaging to a person’s reputation or physical and emotion well-being, the elected officials said.
Braunstein said the bill would make the act a Class A misdemeanor, leaving offenders subject to a $30,000 fine.
“This so-called phenomena of ‘cyber-revenge’ is a tawdry form of exploitation. From what we know, the majority of its victims are women who don’t know that their images and likenesses have been bartered and sold over the Internet,” Griffo said. “Currently, these victims have limited options when their pictures, taken with their consent, were posted online. They would have to enlist a lawyer and threaten to sue the person responsible for sharing the photo or the website hosting them, for invasion of privacy.”
Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) also introduced a package of bills with a similar goal of letting victims file civil lawsuits against anyone who posts private images in public.
Griffo said New Jersey and California already had similar laws on the books addressing the issue and he hoped New York would join the list.
Under current state law, it is only illegal to share pictures taken without consent, Braunstein said, explaining that the new legislation would also include photos taken consensually with the elicit expectation of privacy.
The lawmakers said it would be better to criminalize the act rather than to leave it a civil matter as trials could take a greater toll emotionally and financially for both parties. Braunstein also said websites might be less likely to share harmful images if the act were criminalized.
“This bill sends the strong message that New York will not tolerate this devastating form of virtual sexual assault,” said Mary Anne Franks, associate professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, who helped draft the bill. “Additionally, this bill demonstrates that it is possible to clearly prohibit a narrow category of malicious conduct while respecting legitimate First Amendment concerns.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2013 Community News Group
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