Rep. Craven and Sen. Lynch Prata’s revenge porn and sextortion legislation passes General Assembly
STATE HOUSE –Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2018-H 7452A / 2018-S 2581A) that criminalizes revenge porn and sextortion was passed by the General Assembly 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. The legislation now heads to the governor for consideration.
“Revenge porn is nothing less than digital domestic assault and it has no place in our society to be tolerated,” said Representative Craven, Chairman of the House Committee on Labor. “Posting such material comes with a lifelong impact to the victim because nothing ever truly disappears once it goes online. Severe repercussions need to be in place for these digital abusers and this legislation establishes these long overdue punishments. This bill is constitutionally sound and will protect so many of our residents from becoming victims of this disgusting practice.”
“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.”
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