NY Legislature approves “Revenge Porn” bill, awaits governor’s approval

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

P1000744NEW CITY – New legislation which recently passed both the State Assembly and Senate might soon update current internet privacy laws to protect victims of “revenge porn” whose explicit photos are posted online without their consent.

The legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Phil Boyle (R-C-I, Suffolk County), was endorsed at a press conference Tuesday by officials including Rockland DA Thomas Zugibe, Sen. David Carlucci (D, Clarkstown/Ossining), who was joined by Clarkstown police and domestic violence prevention advocate who have had firsthand experience with victims of such privacy intrusions.

Current privacy laws protect individuals only if recorded images or video show intimate parts of their bodies. Hence, images might not meet criteria for prosecution, even if they are posted for the purpose of humiliation and are sexually explicit in nature.

Under the new legislation, existing surveillance law would be updated to make non-consensual broadcast of individuals engaged in sexual contact a Class E felony, even if no intimate body parts are shown.

According to Zugibe, the closing of this loophole is one of several much-needed updates to outdated anti-surveillance regulations, further bringing criminal law into the digital age.

“With our rapidly changing times I feel like every day we’re trying to put round pegs in square holes,” Zugibe said. “We’re trying to use laws that were created in the dark ages to apply to crimes that are committed using our latest technology, and it’s very challenging.”

Such cases are not unknown in Rockland. Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan confirmed Clarkstown police were confronted with at least three separate cases which they were legally unable to pursue due to the existing loophole. In one case, a woman was not able to press charges because images released of her engaged in sexual conduct with an ex-boyfriend did not meet the current standard.

According to Center for Safety & Change Deputy Executive Director of Programs and Clinical Services Kiera Pollock, her office handles such cases on a regular basis, often in the context of an abusive relationship where such images are used to blackmail a partner.

“I would say on a weekly basis I hear stories of intimate partner violence and sexual assault about the ways that [victims’] abusers have threatened them around the internet with the exposure of photographs or videos and the ways that they are using that to try to coerce them into staying in relationships or change custody agreements or all different kinds of things,” Pollock explained.

Sen. Carlucci said, “What we have to do is to bring these laws into the 21st century and close that loophole, to make sure that there’s a deterrent.”

The legislation now awaits the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Sen. Carlucci stated he had “full confidence” that Cuomo will sign the bill into law.