NYC Lawmakers Move to Make "Revenge Porn" a Crime

NYC Lawmakers Move to Make "Revenge Porn" a Crime

A new bill would make disseminating naked photos without consent a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 in fine. 

The bill, which is expected to be introduced in City Council this week, would also criminalize uploading photos or videos of a sex act without consent. The bill is being sponsored by Councilman Rory Lancman, a Democrat from Queens, and Dan Garodnick, also a Democrat, from Manhattan. The legislation was first reported by the Daily News.

It is already illegal to secretly record video of sexual acts or sexually explicit images in New York state, but the “peeping Tom” law doesn’t cover images that were initially recorded with consent, and later distributed without it.

The new bill would criminalize uploading images or video to the Internet as well as sending them through text or email — even if they were initially obtained with consent (except in cases where the images are a matter of public, journalistic or artistic interest or handed over to law enforcement). A similar bill was introduced in state legislature in 2013, but has not yet been signed into law.

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In 2014, a Manhattan judge dismissed three misdemeanor charges against a Brooklyn man who uploaded nude images of his girlfriend to Twitter and emailed them to her sister and her boss. The victim said she hadn’t given the man, Ian Barber, permission to do so; the judge called his behavior “reprehensible” but ruled that he hadn’t broken any existing laws against harassment, unlawful surveillance or the dissemination of offensive sexual material.

"This is one of those situations where the law has not caught up with technology," Lancman told Gothamist. "When you have a situation where someone is consensually recorded and photographed, and the person who received the photograph now has the ability to disseminate that to the whole world, that simply didn't exist 20 or 30 years ago. And now it exists at the click of a button."

States across the country have increasingly introduced legislation that criminalizes the practice, though the punishments they carry can vary considerably. Thirty-four states plus Washington D.C. have laws on the books that address “revenge porn” in some light, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. A recent University of New Hampshire study found that one in four victims of “sextortion” required medical or mental health services.

And the victims of such crimes are increasingly children, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report. "Sextortion" has more victims who are minors than all other instances child sexual exploitation.

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