Revenge porn, sharing nude images online without the subject’s consent, has become a growing concern as disgruntled lovers share intimate photos obtained during a romantic relationship. Some revenge porn websites identify the subjects by name or even provide links to their social media accounts.
On Tuesday, California became the second state to outlaw revenge porn. New Jersey was the first. California Senate Bill 255 classifies the practice as a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and time in prison. Similar laws have failed to pass in Missouri and Florida.
State Sen. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs filed Florida’s version of the bill, SB 946, which died in the appropriations process earlier this year.
“These pictures are not published for purposes of art,” he said. “They are published for purposes of hurt.”
Currently, revenge porn websites are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, an immunity provision that protects websites from being responsible for the content posted by its users, said UF law professor Lyrissa Lidsky.
Although courts are able to interpret the law more narrowly, the immunity provision could only be changed by Congress, not at the state level.
Lidsky said some opponents of revenge porn legislation feel the proposed laws would infringe on the First Amendment.
“Generally, I’m opposed to new legislation that effects free speech, but this is so dramatic,” Lidsky said.
Not all victims of revenge porn are completely without recourse. Certain cyberstalking and cyberharrassment laws can apply, Lidsky said. Other protections exist for photos that are inherently illegal, such as images obtained through hacking or images involving a minor.
The California bill hasn’t solved all of these concerns, though. The law rests on the intent to cause serious emotional distress, a point that may be hard to prove, Lidsky said.
Simmons said Florida may yet pass specific laws about revenge porn in the future. Before its defeat, SB 946 was approved unanimously by both the Criminal Justice Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A version of this story ran on page 5 on 10/7/2013 under the headline "Revenge porn still legal in Florida"