Ohio may outlaw ‘revenge porn’

Ohio may join 34 other states that already have anti-revenge porn measures on the books. Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, introduced Senate Bill 353 to raise awareness and establish a deterrent to a spiteful behavior that is more common in the digital age.

Revenge porn is the vernacular term for non-consensual distribution of sexually graphic images of people — photos or videos that were obtained without consent or with consent in the context of an intimate relationship, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

“A vengeful ex-partner or opportunistic hacker can upload an explicit image of a victim to a website where thousands of people can view it and hundreds of other websites can share it,” according to the Initiative. “In a matter of days, that image can dominate the first several pages of hits on the victim’s name in a search engine, as well as being emailed or otherwise exhibited to the victim’s family, employers, co-workers, and peers.”

Under Schiavoni’s bill, certain criteria would have to be met: the person in the image can be identified and is an adult; the offender knows or should reasonably know that consent wasn’t given; and the image was obtained in a manner that a reasonable person would know that the image was intended to be kept private.

Republicans haven’t signed onto the bill but Schiavoni said he is hopeful the legislation will see action. “I think it’s a bill that shouldn’t be political. It’s a bill to protect victims and punish offenders for something that can effect people for the rest of their lives,” he said.

So, photos from a beach front topless contest or a Mardi Gras parade wouldn’t be covered by the bill. It also won’t apply in criminal investigations, news reports, art or medical treatment.

Senate Bill 353 would make it a first degree misdemeanor on first offense and a felony on subsequent offenses. Victims would have the right to file a civil lawsuit and employers would not be allowed to fire or discriminate a worker who is a victim.

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative also notes that there is federal legislation pending to address the issue.

Schiavoni said he decided to address revenge porn after working on legislation about cyber bullying.

“I think it is a major problem that does exist, especially with younger adults. There are pictures that go back and forth and they’re intended for that person,” he said. But after a break up, often the sexually explicit photos get posted or shared.

“With the Internet, it’s really hard to get (the photo) down once it’s up, once that click is made,” he said. “You can’t rein these pictures in.”

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