Arizona Lawmakers Move to Make ‘Revenge Porn’ a Felony

Feb 7, 2014 11:15 AM PST

PHOENIX — Arizona state legislation unanimously approved yesterday by the House Judiciary Committee would make it a felony to post photos, videos, film or any digital recording of any unwitting person who is naked or engaging in a sexual act, often referred to as revenge porn.

Only the depicted person’s written consent can absolve the poster, the bill states.

Author of the bill, Rep. J.D. Mesnard, explained that he specifically aims to help counter the growing threat of revenge porn, which has left many victims devastated and without legal recourse.

“What we have seen lately, and I’m sure you’ve read some of the stories, many of them tragic, are situations where someone sends a picture of themselves nude to somebody else and that person, maybe it’s during a relationship, and a relationship ends, and that person posts that photo online,” Mesnard said.

Despite Thursday’s unanimous vote, local reports state that House Bill 2515 still faces some “significant questions” that may sideline the measure when it reaches the House floor. A major point of contention is the role of consent in image and video exchanges.

One opponent of the bill, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, believes that it’s not unusual for individuals to send out naked photos of themselves, and that those that engage in so-called “sexting” and similar behaviors may share responsibility in the unwanted dissemination of their explicit material.

“Once you send it out, I think there’s some difficulty in claiming that you have a right to privacy,” Farnsworth said.“You sent it. It’s on the entire system.”

Arizona legislators approved a new law four years ago to make “sexting” a petty offense, but it only targets minors. The premise is that sexters 18 and younger are simply too immature to understand the implications of their actions. 

Mesnard remains firm in his belief in the bill’s relevance, explaining that despite the complexities of revenge porn (i.e., matters of free speech, consent, etc.), one would be hard-pressed to justify sharing explicit photos shared in trust without unveiling a root of malevolence.

“Unfortunately, as technology changes, people find new ways of hurting people,” Mesnard said.

He added, “That photo now goes out to six or seven billion people. It’s difficult to undo it. And it is often mortifying and embarrassing, as you can imagine.”

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