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Gov. Cuomo signs legislation to outlaw revenge porn

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen July 2, signed

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen July 2, signed the revenge porn bill into law Tuesday. The bill was approved by the State Senate and Assembly in February. Credit: Jeff Bachner

 ALBANY — New York on Tuesday became one of the last states to specifically outlaw revenge porn in which intimate images are transmitted with the intent to harm, harass and embarrass.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill into law Tuesday. The State Senate and Assembly had unanimously approved it in February.

The measure makes revenge porn a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. The law also amends the Civil Rights Law to allow victims to seek compensation through civil lawsuits. Although state laws addressing harassment have sometimes been used to prosecute revenge porn, the new measure was crafted to aid prosecution by defining revenge porn. 

 Assemb. Edward C. Braunstein (D-Queens), a co-sponsor of the bill, said the measure will also allow victims to seek a court order to require websites to remove images used in revenge porn.

A 2017 national study by psychologists at Florida International University found 8 percent of social media users said they have been victimized by revenge porn. Another 4.8 percent were threatened with it, but no images were transmitted. Among victims, women were nearly twice as likely to be targeted than men, according to the study.

New York follows 46 states and the District of Columbia that already had revenge porn laws, according to the nonpartisan Cyber Civil Rights Initiative begun by victims and academics. Opponents in New York and other states had said they were concerned the measures might violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

The law nearly passed in 2018, but a proposal that would have made internet giants such as Google responsible for individual users delayed passage as the companies entered the lobbying fray. The companies agreed to remove revenge porn from their own sites, but under the law they aren’t liable for revenge porn transmitted by individuals in dissemination that is beyond the control of the companies. In another sticking point, teenagers accused of revenge porn will be tried in Family Court, which could result in avoiding a permanent criminal record.

“Our laws have not kept pace with technology and how abusers can use it to harass, intimidate and humiliate intimate partners,” Cuomo said.  “We are empowering victims of this heinous act to take action against their abusers and showing them a path to justice."

The bill had been bottled up in Albany for years, until Democrats took control of the State Senate in January as result of the November elections.

"We are sending a strong message that this behavior will no longer be tolerated in the state of New York, and in doing so we are empowering victims to take a stand against this kind of violation,” said Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood).

Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) fought to pass the law for six years.

“Revenge porn has destroyed the lives of many victims in New York state while perpetrators walked free,” Boyle said Tuesday. “That ends today.”

State & Region