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Revenge Porn Laws

In our ever changing world lawmakers are playing a game of “catch-up” that every day just to keep pace with the fast moving worlds of technology and social media.

One issue making headlines is a recent cyber trend called “revenge porn”.  This term refers to the malicious posting of private sexual messages, images or videos on a website.  Currently, New Jersey and California are the only states that have laws punishing the act.  As it goes with most new legislation, those States who are the first to pass new laws become a type of “road map” to other States looking to pass similar legislation.

California’s “revenge porn law” has been scrutinized by proponents who feel it does not do enough to protect victims.  Amongst other things, the law fails to cover “selfies” -pictures or videos taken by the individual themselves and images distributed due to hacking.  Additionally, it includes an intent clause that will no doubt hinder prosecutors trying to prove the defendant’s motives.

While everyone can agree that victims of this act are no doubt traumatized, scrutinized and could likely face countless emotional, personal and professional losses, opponents argue that society is going too far to legislate yet another area of our lives.  They feel that there are already numerous legal alternatives to many of the components of publishing revenge porn.  These laws include: extortion, voyeurism, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy.  They say this crime should be prosecuted as a civil lawsuit which would benefit the victim through a settlement and be less threatening to violating our First Amendment Rights.

Illinois is looking to enact similar legislation this year.  SB 2694 unanimously passed the Senate and the Illinois House has a similar bill in the form of HB 4320.  If passed, posting a nude or sexually explicit picture of another person without their permission would be a felony.  Additionally, for those websites who are a part of the problem it will now be a crime to charge someone for removal of these types of explicit photos.

Legislators in States looking to enact similar laws should look at the legal limits and public scrutiny that California’s law faced. As technology and society continue to change so must our laws but unlike the fast pace of technology and social media, legislators must proceed slowly as they work to develop laws that will combat these new threats not just extend the reach of the law. These proposed laws will be a significant step in protecting privacy and preventing personal violations in Illinois.

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