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Senate Passes ‘Revenge Porn’ Bill, ACLU Cries Foul

by Christine Stuart | May 1, 2014 12:03pm
(2) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Courts, Legal, Hartford

Courtesy of the Senate photo gallery

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would make it a crime to electronically distribute an intimate image of a person with the intent to “harass, annoy, alarm or terrorize another person.”

The bill makes distribution of what some have referred to as “revenge porn” a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said there’s a difference between a person who consents to be photographed or videotaped and voyeurism where an individual is recorded without their knowledge.

“They’re consenting with the very explicit understanding that this would not be distributed to third parties,” Kissel said. “That’s an important distinction and why this particular law is very important at this point in time to fill that gap that is absent in our criminal justice statutes.”

Kissel said anyone who might think of taking private images and distributing them to third parties needs to think twice because the state of Connecticut is serious about criminalizing this behavior.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union, doesn’t believe the bill the Senate passed Wednesday will pass constitutional muster.

Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU in Connecticut, said Thursday that the bill is unconstitutional and won’t help anyone because “it is badly flawed.”

Staub said the ACLU tried to work with lawmakers and suggested an amendment similar to what passed in California, but for unknown reasons it was not included.

The bill was not changed in a way will save it from a court challenge, Staub said.

The problem with the bill is it doesn’t protect third parties who may distribute the information without knowing there was a lack of consent. These individuals could then be prosecuted.

The ACLU suggested that lawmakers make sure to include language that somehow guarantees that the parties agree or understand that image will remain private and distribution is by the party of the agreement.

“We urge the House to reject it,” Staub said.

Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, who has been working on the bill, said they are mindful of the ACLU’s concerns. He said drafting legislation that implicate free speech rights and modern technology is difficult and an emerging area of law.

He said it’s unclear exactly how his leadership will handle the situation. The House could amend it and send it back to the Senate, which would then have to pass it again. It’s possible that could happen, but its chance of survival narrows as the legislature speeds to its May 7 deadline.

“It is more likely than not that time constraints could create a problem for passing a bill this year,” he said.

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(2) Comments

posted by: Joebigjoe | May 1, 2014  1:02pm

“They’re consenting with the very explicit understanding that this would not be distributed to third parties,” Kissel said”

I’m not for this bill or for taking pornographic pictures but this is a ridiculous comment.

In a personal and private relationship two people may have that agreement when things are good. This is like a contract, but what’s next? A person cheats on another they are dating exclusively and lied to them? Are we going to legislate that next? What about a couple that breaks up, no pictures involved, and the ex decides to bad mouth this person so other people don’t want to date them?

Understandings are broken in personal relationships every day so a better bill would be schools teaching how if you do this or post pictures that are not flattering in the wrong hands then its YOUR responsibility for doing it in the first place.

The bill should only cover pictures taken in a private relationship without someones knowledge. Now we have to protect people from their own stupidity.

posted by: Chesler | May 1, 2014  4:28pm

Does CT already provide protection for the use of one’s likeness? 
The bill criminalizes a very particular nasty behavior, but what Sen. Kissel said applies to some non-pornographic personal pictures. I don’t know how explicit the understanding is (for naked or clothed photos) that they wouldn’t be shown to third parties, but neither was there a photographer’s release.