Taking Revenge Against Revenge Porn

Apr 22, 2015

It can start as a lark, a split second of poor judgment and misplaced trust. And it can end in a cyber-nightmare that ruins careers or worse. The Senate gave tentative approval Wednesday to a bill outlawing revenge-porn.

Lawmakers want to outlaw "revenge porn."
Credit antiporn.com

Florida lawmakers have heard the pitch to outlaw revenge porn twice before. Here’s Republican David Simmons of Altamonte Springs making headway Wednesday on the Senate floor.

“And it was originally a felony in the original bill but it’s been moved to a misdemeanor…Are there any questions, any further questions? Seeing none, pursuant to Rule 4.19, the bill is placed on the calendar of bills on the third reading. Read the next bill.”

Behind the dry legislative process stand thousands of victims. Most of them are women who let a boyfriend or husband take compromising photos. When the relationship went south, the photos went online.

One of them is Carly Hellstrom, an FSU student who says she was having a brief romance when she let her boyfriend take nude photos. She ended up giving tearful testimony to legislative committees.

“I wish I had the legal attention of this last year when I needed it, when I had my picture uploaded to a gossip website and it had over 100,000 views. And it was the first thing you saw when you Googled my name.”

Hellstrom calls it a sex crime. She says the fallout for victims ranges from ruined careers to suicide.

“It can’t wait. It will not only prevent people from uploading victims’pictures, but it will save llives.”

The bill bans uploading sexually explicit images of an identifiable person to a social website. It exempts quote, “providers of internet or storage services.” That should protect search engines like Google, sponsors say.

First Amendment rights might be a problem, according to a staff analysis. But 15 states ban revenge porn and no challenge has reached an appellate court.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled child pornography isn’t a free-speech right.

Republican Representative Tom Goodson of Titusville filed the House version. The idea originated in Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s cybercrimes unit.

“It gives us the teeth not only to go after individual but to be able to have the tools we need to go after him.”

Goodson’s bill could come up for an initial vote on the House Floor as early as Friday.