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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Florida House fights for payback for revenge-porn victims

Revenge porn may soon become illegal if a Florida bill makes its way through the House of Representatives.

House Bill 787, sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson (R-Titusville), passed unanimously through the Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. If passed, the bill could take effect October 1.

The posting of nude pictures of ex-lovers on the Internet is a new but increasingly popular phenomenon, said Michelle Jacobs, a UF law professor.

The most recent uproar came with the popularization of the website Is Anybody Down, a well-known revenge porn site run by Craig Brittain, Jacobs said.

“The state is trying to get ahead of the curve and deal with some of these issues that technology is producing,” she said.

If passed, this bill could be one of the first in the nation to criminalize the act, which has previously been considered a civil matter. The law would make posting this material a felony, punishable by fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison, Jacobs said.

Current privacy laws in Florida protect against cyberstalking, invasion of privacy and purposeful infliction of emotional distress.

The law seeks to fill a gap in the existing laws to protect victims of revenge porn, said Lyrissa Lidsky, a UF law professor specializing in free speech online.

“Pornography is protected by the First Amendment,” she said, “but the problem here isn’t that it’s pornographic, it’s that you don’t have the consent of the subject of the photo.”

First Amendment rights include the right to intellectual property, which some argue covers the distributing of images a person has taken themselves, even if they involve others in a sexual manner.

However, First Amendment protections don’t cover harming others, which is how the state has framed their argument against revenge porn, Jacobs said.

“If someone is damaged or injured as a result of that, you’re liable,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that you thought you were exercising your First Amendment rights.”

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