The New York State Senate recently passed legislation (S5946A) that would make it a crime to distribute “revenge porn.”

In short, “revenge porn” is a form of cyber bullying .  It is the practice of sharing private nude or sexually explicit photographs or videos of people online without their consent, even if the photograph was itself taken with consent.  The dissemination of these images are posted online to strike back at someone and are often accompanied by personal information, including their full name, links to social media profiles and addresses.

In some cases, these images are sold to porn sites in exchange for money.  Some of these websites charge a fee to have the materials removed.

Needless to say, “revenge porn” can do significant damage to someone’s career and personal relationships.  It can also cause the victim to suffer debilitating humiliation.

Current law in New York protects an individual from this behavior if they are unaware that images are being taken.  The pending legislation would provide protection regardless of who photographed the image or created the video, and whether or not the victim consented to creation at the time.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.  It criminalizes the dissemination of sexually intimate images or images of intimate parts of another person without that person’s explicit consent in order to harm, harass, scare or alarm that individual. The first offense would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable up to one year in jail, and a repeat offense within 10 years would be a class E felony, punishable up to four years in prison.

To date, numerous states have enacted revenge porn criminal legislation.

Civil tort actions are also available to victims who typically plead privacy violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.  However, such filings are public record and widely accessible, often discouraging such lawsuits.

State civil statutes may ultimately be passed that provide victims of “revenge porn” the ability to move forward on a pseudonymous basis.  However, unless and until that happens, “Jane Doe” plaintiffs are likely to meet procedural challenges by named defendants.

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