Revenge Porn

Free-Speech Groups Urge Veto on Rhode Island 'Sextortion' Measure

The state's new "revenge porn" measure is "so breathtakingly broad...that it criminalizes activity that involves neither revenge nor porn."

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The New England First Amendment Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Press Association are urging Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to veto a new measure meant to deal with "revenge porn" and "sextortion." The state defines revenge porn as "sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual…uploaded by former lovers or hackers for the purpose of humiliation and exploitation." However, "unlike the laws of virtually every other state on this subject," the Rhode Island measure does "not require a photo's dissemination to cause harm to any person or even be intended to cause harm in order to violate the law," the civil-liberties groups object.

"'Revenge porn' should be punished," they continue, "but when a bill like this misappropriates and distorts the term, and puts the media and others at risk of criminal prosecution for engaging in activity that is a far cry from the bill's purported intent, we firmly believe a veto is in order."

The new legislation, passed earlier this month, prohibits posting sexually explicit photos without the subject's permission. First-time offenders face imprisonment up to one year, a $1,000 fine, or both, while subsequent offenses could yield up to three years imprisonment and a $3,000 fine.

The legislation also bans "sextortion," which the state defines as "a new cybercrime that occurs when offenders use personal images—often stolen or obtained by hacking—to force the victim to engage in sending more sexually explicit photos or videos under threat the images will be made public," or to coerce them into paying money to keep the images private. If that sounds like pretty classic extortion to you, you're right, and Rhode Island already criminalizes extortion. But who doesn't love a pun? Plus the new "sextortion" charge—a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine—could probably be added to regular extortion and/or revenge porn charges to give prosecutors an extra carceral edge.

In their letter to Gov. Raimondo, the ACLU and company called the new measure "so breathtakingly broad in its reach that it criminalizes activity that involves neither revenge nor porn. It criminalizes activity that harms no one and is not intended to harm anyone. It turns hundreds, if not thousands, of young people into criminals. And it creates a potentially chilling effect on the exercise of free speech by the media, which face criminal penalties if they fail to prove to a jury that photos they disseminated were not 'in the public interest.'"

"Even in situations where there is admittedly no public interest," the letter continues, "some of the conduct encompassed by this legislation simply does not deserve to be treated as a crime." For instance, when a host of nude celebrity photos were hacked several years ago—activity already punishable under other laws—anyone who looked for or shared any of the photos could be charged under the new Rhode Island bill.

"We already have a strong privacy law in Rhode Island," said Linda Lotridge Levin, secretary of the Rhode Island Press Association. "I don't understand the rationale for this legislation. It appears to be just a knee-jerk reaction."

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27 responses to “Free-Speech Groups Urge Veto on Rhode Island 'Sextortion' Measure

  1. Not sure why a new law is necessary.

    1. It turns hundreds, if not thousands, of young people into criminals

      Feature, not a bug. Now you know.

  2. “I don’t understand the rationale for this legislation. It appears to be just a knee-jerk reaction.”
    Well, this has never happened before.

    1. Let’s not be foolish. An intent to “humiliate and exploit” ? whether through micro-extortion, micro-aggression or any other officially recognized means ? is an intent to harm, just like the intent the damage a “reputation” that the New York Court of Appeals has retroactively read into certain delicate lower court proceedings as a basis for upholding the conviction secured by able prosecutors in America’s leading criminal “satire” case. And no one ? certainly not Elizabeth Nolan Brown ? would wish to defend the outrageous “First Amendment dissent” filed by a single, isolated liberal judge in that important case. See the documentation at:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  3. Look, the only way we can make these new laws work, and really protect the children, is if there’s a list, and we can just combine all lists. So if someone gets on this list, I assume sex offender for life list is an automatic here, why can’t we just combine this with the terrorists watch list? That way these ‘sexters’ and other deviant and dangerous teenagers and old pervs alike won’t be able to get guns and shoot up our safe neighborhoods? WIN/WIN!

    1. Of course there will have to be a whole new Imperial bureaucracy to make a list of all the lists.

      1. TRUTH!

  4. Another poorly thought out piece of legislation.

    1. Oh no, it was very well thought out. It’s only intention is the criminalize more things and make more people criminals, thereby giving the state more power.

  5. Interesting quote:

    Revenge porn’ should be punished,” they continue, “but when a bill like this misappropriates and distorts the term, and puts the media and others at risk of criminal prosecution”

    So, punish other people but not us?

    1. It’s OK when a media outlet publishes images from The Fappening because they’re just “reporting the news.”

      1. Yeah, this.

        This seems like the paparazzi whining that they won’t be allowed to spy on celebrities sunbathing naked with a telescopic lens and publish the photos. Oh, boo-hoo.

      2. Well, it is, isn’t it (from a legal perspective). Once the pictures are out there, they are out there and the first amendment applies. If they were stolen, then the people who stole them should be punished.

        1. In the digital age, every copy of a file that is not authorized by it’s owner is theft. Sharing a photo is making copies of a file that is (or should be) owned by the person it is taken of.

          Personally, I think it is more libertarian to say that an individual owns all images of themselves by default and gets to decide who can publish them, than to say that any image of a person can be published and profited from by any third party who happens to acquire them, even from an illegitimate source.

          It is an aspect of self-ownership. You own your body, you own all photos of your naked body, unless you specifically sell them and transfer the copyright.

          1. In the digital age, every copy of a file that is not authorized by it’s owner is theft

            You’re talking about the stone age, not the digital age. Nothing is truly being stolen there; it’s just a very poor excuse for government censorship.

            Your use of propaganda terms like “theft” in this context is laughable.

            It is an aspect of self-ownership.

            Self-ownership is about owning your actual body, not controlling every image of yourself.

            You own your body, you own all photos of your naked body

            I don’t see why you should “own” data stored on other people’s equipment unless there is an explicit agreement with them that that is the case.

  6. Since extortion is already illegal, the sextortion bill will be used as an additional tool by prosecutors to extort incentivize plea deals for questionably illegal behavior. Anything illegal you do now triggers multiple sanctions and stacking the counts gives the state leverage against you. Take a plea for spitting on the sidewalk or we’ll charge you with littering, improper disposal of biomedical waste, vandalism, violation of the Clean Waters Act, attempted assault, criminal negligence for creating hazardous conditions, plus conspiracy for all of the above if we examine all your online postings and find you’ve ever used the phrase “so mad I could spit”. You’re looking at 12-to-20 plus up to a $150,000 fine, buddy – or take the plea and pay your $250 and go home.

    1. This should be filed under ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ given that one offense (action) can generate dozens of results (punishments). That is clearly sadistic in my view.

  7. “Free-Speech Groups”

    So no one from a university?

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  9. The state’s new “revenge porn” measure is “so breathtakingly broad…that it criminalizes activity that involves neither revenge nor porn.”

    I suspect that’s probably the whole point.

  10. “some of the conduct encompassed by this legislation simply does not deserve to be treated as a crime.” For instance, when a host of nude celebrity photos were hacked several years ago?activity already punishable under other laws?anyone who looked for or shared any of the photos could be charged under the new Rhode Island bill.

    Ok, I get that people who LOOK AT celebrity nude photos shouldn’t be punished, but why not those who share them?
    If the law is going to forbid sharing a nude photo of someone without their permission (and I see no reason why not), why would celebrities be an exception.

    I get the vague feeling that this is the tabloid press trying to carve out an exception for themselves. I honestly feel sorry for celebrities that the press is allowed to get away with invading their privacy in a way that would be illegal if anyone else was the subject.

    More privacy, not less, please.

    1. Celebrities are an exception because they are celebrities. Being a celebrity by definition means that personal things about you are of public interest.
      I do feel bad for the few people who become famous without wanting to, but for the most part, they knew what they were getting into.

      1. Being a celebrity by definition means that personal things about you are of public interest.

        How is looking at nude photos of Nicole Kidman a legitimate public interest? It’s purely purient. Nobody needs to know what Nicole Kidman’s naked body looks like into order to formulate public policy.

  11. Seems like this should be a civil and not a criminal matter unless the pictures were acquired by illicit means or are used to blackmail someone.
    If I take sexy pictures of a girlfriend, they are my pictures unless we have made some other agreement. If I choose to publish them, I don’t see how that isn’t protected under the first amendment. Unless people somehow own and have the right to control dissemination of their own likeness. Which would make it pretty much impossible to publish any pictures taken in public.

    1. If you take sexy pictures of your girlfriend without her permission, you’re violating her right to own and control her body. If you take them with her permission, you are under an implied contract not to distribute them without her consent.

    2. Which would make it pretty much impossible to publish any pictures taken in public.

      You know what? I’m pretty ok with that. But I think we can find a reasonable legal line between fully nude photos of unconsenting subjects and random faces in street shots.

  12. We should simply brand every single living person in America a sex offender.

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