Pennsylvania Legislator Proposes 'Revenge Porn' Bill

HARRISBURG, Pa. —  A Pennsylvania state senator is proposing "revenge porn" legislation in  her state.

State Sen. Judy Schwank told local media yesterday that she'd like to follow in the footsteps of California and New Jersey by strengthening online sexual harassment laws to include posting sexually explicit photos and videos shot to humiliate or exploit others

Schwank did not immediately respond to XBIZ for further comment on her proposal, but she did tell reporters yesterday that prosecutions would target individuals, rather than commercial revenge porn sites.

"Trying to approach for example websites that host this kind of information is extremely difficult. So it seems more appropriate to catch this at the level of making sure that the individual who does this kind of crime is penalized," she told reporters.

Schwank, a Democrat from Berks County, characterized the proposed legislation as "intimate partner harassment" and said she hopes to work with the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to address free speech concerns.

"In a way, I think that is a second way to victimize the victims, by having it recognized that you know what they did innocently has now turned into pornography," she said. "It's humiliating enough."

California's just-signed-into-law revenge porn bill amends a section of the Penal Code and makes it a crime to "cause serious emotional distress" to others by distributing over the Internet nude or semi-nude images of them.

Images in violation, as defined by California's law, include portions of genitals and, in the case of a female, portions of breasts below the top of the areola, that is either "uncovered or visible through less than fully opaque clothing."

It prohibits only images taken by the person posting them, meaning that self-photos aren’t protected.

California's revenge porn law punishes convicted operators with six-month jail sentences and imposing fines of $1,000 — even if the pictures were originally taken with consent.  Subsequent fines amount to penalties not exceeding $2,000, along with one-year jail sentences.

Adult industry attorney Lawrence Walters of the Walters Law Group said that while he hasn't reviewed the Pennsylvania proposal, he believes that legislators nationwide should focus more on free speech rights when crafting revenge porn bills.

"Sometimes trends are generated in legislation, and mistakes can be repeated over and over, merely because the first state didn’t think through all of the ramifications to a new law," Walters told XBIZ. "I maintain that sending people to jail for publishing even very offensive images is not consistent with the First Amendment. This issue should be addressed through civil fines and penalties, to incentivize lawyers to help victims of revenge porn. 

"A scalpel, not a hammer, is required where protected speech is concerned. If Pennsylvania follows California’s lead, the bill will likely have the same deficiencies, such as no remedy for self-produced images. Hopefully the legislators will seek out some real feedback and not just copy California’s law."



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