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Revenge Porn Penalties Considered In Colorado

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – Using intimate photos or videos of significant others to humiliate them would be a crime under a bill being considered by lawmakers in Colorado, which is joining a growing number of states tackling the issue referred to as revenge porn.

One of the sponsors of the proposal says it highlights how legislators are trying to catch up with new crimes brought on by technological advances.

“Things are moving so fast in the cyber world,” said Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

Revenge porn has gotten to be common enough that about two dozen states have proposed bills to address the issue this year, including Utah, Idaho, Virginia and Wisconsin, which enacted legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Colorado’s bill would make it a misdemeanor for adults to publish explicit pictures or videos of someone without their consent to cause them “serious emotional distress.” Offenders would also be fined at least $10,000 and be ordered to remove the images from the Internet.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint just how widespread revenge porn is in Colorado and nationwide, the Pew Research Internet Project said in a survey released in late 2012 that about 15 percent of adults with cellphones reported receiving nude or nearly nude photos or videos from someone they know.

Earlier this legislative session, Stephens introduced a bill addressing revenge porn among minors. But she shelved her bill after prosecutors said existing child exploitation laws already cover the problem. Her new bill is scheduled for its first committee hearing next week.

Other states that have considered revenge porn bills have faced concerns that they could be violating free-speech rights. The American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado is also worried the government may have too much power with this type of legislation.

“While the privacy rights that this proposal would protect are clearly important, we are far from convinced that adding new criminal penalties and giving the government more free rein to monitor people’s activities, postings, and correspondences online is the answer,” said Denise Maes, the ACLU’s public policy director in Colorado.

Stephens noted that the right to free speech is not absolute.

“This isn’t about free speech. This is about maliciousness,” she said.

Mary Anne Franks, an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Law, has helped several states craft bills on revenge porn and is working with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., on federal legislation. She said states have to give consideration to free-speech concerns, but added: “That doesn’t mean that a criminal law can’t be written, it just means that we have to be very careful.”

She suggests that states write legislation that avoids unintended consequences, such as punishing law enforcement who take pictures of rape victims for evidence or people who report flashers to authorities. But she said lawmakers also should ensure punishment for people who may not know the victim, but are using the images for commercial gain.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Stephens, said there is a “serious gap in the law” when it comes to prosecuting revenge porn. He said he’s concerned there are instances where women in abusive relationships have spouses or boyfriends who threaten to publish intimate photos or videos to stop them from going to the authorities.

“With the advent of these new technologies we can take photos and blast them out to the Internet and basically a million people in one second. We’re seeing this more and more,” he said.

LINK: House Bill 1378

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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