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NYC council to consider revenge-porn bill

New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick is seen

New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick is seen at a public forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall in Brooklyn on Nov. 19, 2013. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Disseminating sexually explicit images without the depicted person’s permission would be criminalized under a bill to be introduced today before the New York City Council.

Violators of the so-called revenge-porn law could be jailed for up to a year and fined as much as $1,000, according to a draft circulated by its two sponsors.

The bill covers “identifiable” images and videos with nudity or sexual activity, if the disseminator has “the intention to cause economic, emotional or physical harm,” even if the person consented to the initial depiction.

“I think that revenge porn is one of the most despicable things that one person can do to another person,” said sponsor Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens). “It’s amazing to me that somebody could do this to another person and not face legal consequences.”

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have some form of revenge-porn law, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

A New York State revenge-porn law enacted in 2014 did not cover situations where the person consented to the original depiction, including selfies.

To violate the proposed law, the person need not be the photographer or videographer, or be in a relationship with the depicted person. A recipient of imagery on dating apps Tinder, Bumble or Grindr would qualify for prosecution if the disseminator circulating the material is doing so for a nefarious purpose.

Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), the bill’s other sponsor, said the council would convene hearings soon, hopefully this fall, to solicit feedback from advocates, civil libertarians and others. One area that needs further consideration, he said: What, for instance, would qualify as the “matter of public interest” exception, per the bill’s language. Would Anthony Weiner’s sexting be exempt?

Scott Greenfield, a criminal defense attorney who’s blogged criticism of revenge-porn laws, questioned whether the proposed bill’s language comports with constitutionally protected free speech rights. While addressing revenge porn is a laudable goal, he said of many such laws, “this one is as bad as they could conceivably be.”

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