Legislators take aim at ‘revenge porn’ loophole


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

So-called “selfies” should be protected by law in New York, legislators across the state are demanding.

Three bills aimed at criminalizing “revenge porn” — or the act of posting sexual photos of ex-partners online out of vengeance — will soon be introduced in the State Legislature.

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a new California law that makes disseminating naked photos of exes, without consent, a crime punishable by $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

But New York lawmakers said there is a major loophole in California and New York protections: Photos victims take of themselves, known as selfies, are not covered.

The increasingly popular self-taken photos make up more than 80 percent of pictures published out of spite, according to State Senator Phil Boyle, who represents parts of Long Island and sponsors one bill.

“Revenge porn can ruin a woman’s life, family and career,” Boyle said. “As the social media phenomenon grows, more and more women are being violated and exploited by their ex-boyfriends and husbands.”

Victims could also be men, but Boyle said that is rarely the case.

Selfies would be covered under Boyle’s bill and also under a separate law introduced by Assemblymember Ed Braunstein of Bayside and upstate Senator Joseph Griffo.

Both bills would classify the crime as a Class A misdemeanor, which is typically coupled with a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison. Braunstein and Griffo’s legislation comes with a harsher penalty of up to $30,000.

Another piece of legislation being sponsored by Assemblymember Francisco Moya of Jackson Heights is even more strict and would make the crime a Class E felony, which can come with a four-year prison sentence.

Barring those who voluntarily expose themselves in public or on the Internet, the law “doesn’t leave any victims out,” said Dave Fischer, a spokesperson for Braunstein.

The lawmakers said the sexually explicit photos often make it to websites created by scorned lovers and include personal information like where the victims live and work.

“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.

Griffo said the “so-called phenomena of cyber-revenge” has caused multiple lawsuits for privacy invasion.

However, victims have “little or no legal recourse” when their private photos go viral, Boyle said.

A second proposed Moya law would allow residents to obtain a court order requiring websites to take down images.

None of the bills have been formally introduced yet in the Assembly or State Senate.

Passage by Governor Andrew Cuomo would make New York the third state in the country, next to New Jersey and California, to have laws related to
revenge porn.

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