Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push for Tough Revenge Porn Laws

Earlier this month in what was called the first New York case of its kind, a judge threw out a high profile revenge porn case based on his interpretation of a set of laws that are woefully behind the times.

no-revenge-pornIn the case, the defendant posted nude pictures of his ex on Twitter, and emailed them to the victim’s sister and boss. The Judge in the case did not consider a Twitter post to be “public dissemination”, which is crazy, and the emailed pictured did not constitute harassment because he did not encourage the recipients to share the photos with others.

The judge’s decision may well have been correct within a strict interpretation of the law in that case, but if it was, it underscores the need for new, more up to date legislation that accurately reflects our current communication modalities and the size of the internet population. As of this writing, only California and New Jersey have recently crafted revenge porn laws.

Now lawmakers in Pennsylvania are pushing for tougher revenge porn laws that would presumably address situations such as the one above. The bill, sponsored by Senator Judy Schwank, focuses on what it calls “Intimate Partner Harassment”. Under the law, any public dissemination of sexually explicit photos of exes will be a misdemeanor, provided that the photos were posted for the purpose of humiliating the victim.

The bill, which now goes to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, also promises stricter punishment in the event that the victim is a minor. If the victim is 18 or older, the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $5,000 and two years’ imprisonment. If the victim is under 18, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $10,000 and five years’ imprisonment.

Even in states where there is revenge porn legislation, there has been criticism that the laws are imperfect or not a foolproof deterrent. It is going to take a while to get this right. We applaud any state that is at least making an effort to protect the rights of victims and do the right thing.

More information re: help for revenge porn victims here.

 

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