Walters: Fla. 'Revenge Porn' Bill Is Vague, Overbroad

Apr 17, 2013 4:30 PM PST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida "revenge porn" bill cleared another commitee yesterday, advancing the piece of legislation past three House of Representatives panels and bumping up the possibility that the online adult biz will face more government regulation.

On Tuesday, Florida's Judiciary Committee, 16-0, voted to move HB 787 further along. The bill already has cleared by unanimous vote the Criminal Justice and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. A companion bill in the Senate, SB 946, which mirrors HB 787, has passed two panels unanimously as well.

HB 787 "prohibits knowing use of [content] that depicts nudity and contains any of depicted individual's personal identification information or counterfeit or fictitious information purporting to be such personal identification information, without first obtaining depicted person's written consent."

Adult industry attorney Larry Walters, who heads up Walters Law Group, says his firm represents many adult clients who have expressed concern that the enactment of HB 787 would result in a variety of unintended consequences and increased legal exposure for their business operations.

Walters noted the proposed statute appears to be both vague and overbroad, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

"When faced with a choice of continuing to enforce some level of publishing standards or incurring potential criminal liability under the proposed Florida statute, service providers may well dispense with any level of review or editorial moderation to avoid potential liability," Walters said in a legal memorandum last month. "This would result in the presumably unintended consequence of permitting the publication of widespread, un-moderated content on social networking sites throughout the nation.

"Alternatively, popular online service providers could choose not to make their services available in Florida, or to Florida residents. Notably, the statute seeks to assert jurisdiction over any violator if the harm to the victim’s privacy interests occurs in the State of Florida. Naturally, this would potentially include any website operator or social networking service that makes its content available in the State of Florida (i.e., nearly all of them.)."

The bill's proposal, authored by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, provides for enhanced penalties for violations involving the posting of victims younger than 16 years of age and would target perpetrators who reside out of state but post online content involving offended in-state residents.

Violators of HB 787, if passed, would be subject to a third-degree felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years probation and a $5,000 fine.

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