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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: September 25, 2013 04:38 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: "Revenge Porn"
Articles in various media recently have reported the emerging phenomena of "revenge porn", where a person posts sexually explicit photos or videos of an ex-spouse or lover online, typically accompanied by abusive comments, identifying information that includes the victim's name and/or where they live or work, and even links to the victim's social media accounts. One woman even found photos of her posted to her new name after she had changed it to separate herself from the images.
The nature of these acts is particularly personal and malignant, and the abuse can be devastating to victims, who nationally have lost jobs, had relationships with family and friends severely damaged and found themselves stalked by strangers. Unfortunately, it is not illegal to use them in this way. In Pennsylvania, for example, even harrassment charges apparently would apply only if there is a repeated course of conduct despite the reality that a single internet posting can result today in an infinite number of viewings. Website operators, meanwhile, are largely protected by federal law from responsibility for material posted by third parties. As one law professor describes it, revenge porn is "an easy way to make people unemployable, un-datable and potentially at physical risk.”
I will introduce legislation to close the loophole in our law by making it illegal to distribute or post a photo or other recorded images of an identifiable person who is naked or engaged in sexual activity, unless the subject has given authorization to do so or the images were recorded in circumstances where a reasonable expectation of privacy or confidentiality did not exist. It is modeled on current law in New Jersey and legislation awaiting the governor's signature in California. Violations would be a second-degree misdemeanor, a grade higher than now provided for harrassment. Where the victim is a minor, a violation would increase two-steps to a third-degree felony.

Introduced as SB1167