Florida Legislature Passes Bill Aimed to Curb Sexual Cyber Harassment

May 3, 2019

Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart)
Credit Florida House of Representatives

Sharing someone else’s nude images on social media or through other “electronic means” will be a misdemeanor if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill passed by the house and senate this week. The measure is part of an effort to curb harm done to victims of sexual cyber harassment.

Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) holds up her smart phone in a senate committee meeting.
Credit The Florida Channel

“As you all know we live in an ever-changing electronic world. We all live with this,” Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) is holding up her smart phone in a senate committee meeting.

She’s sponsoring a bill to expand the definition of sexual cyber harassment. Current law only allows prosecution if nude photos or videos of someone else have been posted alongside some form of identification. This means if someone posts a nude photo of you online, you can’t prosecute them unless they have also posted your full name or other identifying information next to the photo.

“This is a true problem. It makes it very difficult for law enforcement to use the statute that we put in place several years ago without that specific ability to use a photo as the identifier,” says Harrell.

Under current law if a person publishes someone else’s nude images on a website they can be prosecuted, but if they send out those same images via text, they won’t be punished. Harrell hopes to address both those issues, “Our law enforcement community has seen a real shift in the posting of these sexually explicit images or videos from websites to directly to people,” says Harrell.

Her bill updates the law to include texts and other “electronic means” such as social media apps and doesn’t require someone’s name to be posted for an image to be considered sexual cyber harassment. If Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Harrell’s bill, it will be effective July 1.