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Ohio bill would make 'revenge porn' illegal

Ohio bill would make 'revenge porn' illegal
Posted at 12:58 PM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-13 07:03:45-04

The act of putting sexually explicit images or videos of someone online without that person's consent -- most commonly known as “revenge porn” -- could soon be illegal in Ohio if a bill introduced last week becomes law.

“Revenge porn” is generally known to be used by ex-lovers to harm another partner by putting sexually explicit material of the partner online -- victims often are affected emotionally or even lose jobs because of its consequences.

“Once (it’s posted online), you have the risk of millions of people seeing that image when that image was meant for only one person,” said Sen. Joe Schivoni, a Democrat from Boardman, located south of Youngstown. Schivoni introduced the bill. “I think it’s time that we really start talking about it and dealing with it at the state level.”

The bill would punish those who publish “revenge porn” online with a first degree misdemeanor and after subsequent violations with a fifth degree felony.

Thirty-four other states already have laws against “revenge porn.”

It would also protect victims. For example, students who were victims of would be able to keep their scholarships and employers wouldn’t be able to fire or demote victimized employees.

“People say ‘Well, I’d never exchange my naked pictures with anybody, so I could never be a victim,’” Carrie Goldberg with the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative said. “However, we’ve had cases where people were videoed without their consent, and that went viral.”

Goldberg also said “revenge porn” isn’t always ex-lovers who get back against their former partner. She said people could post sexually explicit images of someone online without their consent for a variety of reasons. 

Mike Brickner with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio supports the bill’s cause, but is worried the broad language in the bill might make it hard to define what a “sexually explicit” image is or prove intent of why an image was posted online.

“Whenever an image has nudity in it, it is oftentimes hard for prosecutors to determine whether or not an image was posted in a revengeful manner or what the motivation was behind it,” Brickner said. “And that might lead to many people being criminalized that wouldn’t have been before.”

The bill, SB 353, has yet to assigned to a committee for hearing.

Liam Niemeyer is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at liamnmeyer@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @liamniemeyer