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Breakthrough reported in talks over NY's revenge porn bill

If the bill becomes law, revenge porn would become a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

A view of the New York state Capitol

A view of the New York state Capitol in Albany on Jan. 15. Photo Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — A long-delayed bill to make revenge porn a crime in New York State is expected to pass the Legislature Thursday and be signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo soon after.

The Democratic majorities of the Senate and Assembly plan a Thursday morning news conference to announce their plans to vote on the measure later that day. A key legislator said a hurdle was overcome late Tuesday and a new version of the bill was submitted Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, with the growth of social media there are more and more ways to exploit people,” Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) told Newsday. “The laws have to keep up.”

If approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, revenge porn would become a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

“The governor for years has fought to outlaw this disgusting and insidious behavior that follows victims around their entire lives," said Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo's press secretary. "We’re excited that the Legislature has embraced this proposal.”   

Victims have said revenge porn has destroyed relationships and cost them jobs and educational opportunities and they can’t get the images removed without expensive lawsuits. Even court orders, however, can’t always stop all copied images, they have said.

Although secretly recording and disseminating explicit sexual images  has been prosecuted under other crimes, 40 states and Washington, D.C., have passed specific revenge porn laws to combat the rise in the abuse.

On Monday, the Nassau County Legislature unanimously passed a bill to make posting of intimate sexual images of partners without consent a crime punishable with jail time and fines. The bill would give victims the ability to pursue civil cases. It is expected to be signed into law next week by County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat.

New York City created a revenge porn misdemeanor in 2017.

Under the state proposal in Albany, passing sexual or sexually explicit images on the internet without the subject’s consent to embarrass or harm people would be a misdemeanor.

The bill had been discussed since 2013. A major stumbling block had been some concerns that teenagers passing images of each other could have a misdemeanor record that could haunt them through school and in employment.

There was no immediate comment from the Assembly.

The Internet Association, which lobbies for Google and other members, supports criminalizing revenge porn. The association has been concerned about what it called ambiguous language in the bill that could make internet companies culpable in revenge porn even though they can’t remove all images and have established policies and practices against revenge porn.

“While the industry continues to have reservations about the bill, it is important for New York State to pass Senate bill 1719C, so that victims of these horrific actions will have the ability to hold bad actors to account,” said John Olsen, the association’s director state government affairs in the Northeast region.

Google’s policy states the search engine will remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without consent, although the company isn’t technologically able to remove such images from websites.

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