Sen. Lynch Prata’s revenge porn and sextortion legislation passes Senate
STATE HOUSE –Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2018-S 2581A) that criminalizes revenge porn and sextortion was passed by the Senate tonight. The legislation is a compromise between the General Assembly, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Governor Gina Raimondo after similar legislation was passed in 2016 but was vetoed by Governor Raimondo for First Amendment concerns.
“It is vitally important that we address this new kind of virtual assault, which disproportionately targets women. Once it is law, it is my hope that it will make those posting these kinds of images think twice before invading someone’s privacy in such a degrading and damaging manner,” said Senator Lynch Prata, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary. “I am thankful that a compromise was reached between all parties so that we can begin the process of granting justice to the victims of these heinous crimes.”
“No one should ever have to endure the trauma and embarrassment of having a private photo published,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “The bill that passed addresses my concerns about the impacts on free speech, and I look forward to signing it. I’m grateful that all parties were able to come together to move this important legislation forward.”
“After eight years of calling for this bill to pass to provide justice for the countless victims that have come to law enforcement seeking help, I am pleased to see that the Senate has passed a bill that will protect victims of the vile and vengeful act of posting intimate images and videos by former partners whose intent is to embarrass, intimidate, and harass. We need this law to effectively prosecute those who engage in this deplorable and reprehensible behavior,” said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Revenge porn is sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual. Revenge porn is uploaded by former lovers or hackers for the purpose of humiliation and exploitation. The images or videos are often accompanied by personal information, including the pictured individual's full name and links to their social media profiles.
The statute applies to those who knew that the image was created under circumstances where a reasonable person would know or understand that the image is to remain private and explicitly exempts material that “relates to a matter of public concern and dissemination serves a lawful purpose”. The legislation includes language that requires intent to harm the victim must be established during prosecution.
The legislation also explicitly exempts when dissemination of such serves a lawful purpose; when the dissemination is made in the course of a lawful public proceeding; when the dissemination involves voluntary nudity or sexual conduct in public or commercial settings or in a place where a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy; and when the dissemination is made in the public interest, including the reporting of unlawful conduct, or lawful and common practice of law enforcement, criminal reporting, corrections, legal proceedings, medical activities, scientific activities, or educational activities.
The legislation also creates criminal penalties for those who engage in “sextortion,” a relatively new and very disturbing cybercrime that occurs when offenders use personal images – often stolen or obtained by hacking – to force victims to engage in sending more sexually explicit photos or videos under threat the images will be made public. In addition, victims are often extorted into paying money or providing personal identifying information for the images not to be posted or revealed to others.
For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903