Attorney weighs in on proposed anti-revenge porn law

revenge porn new york state albany
Brooklyn attorney Carrie Goldberg praises the efforts in Albany to criminalize revenge porn but recognizes more work needs to be done both online and off.
Credit: Carrie A. Goldberg

With days left in the legislative session, the New York State Senate passed a bill on Wednesday night that would criminalize the sending of revenge porn pictures without consent of the person in the image.

Websites like IsAnyoneUp.com or MyEx.com have been targeted by courts and lawmakers nationwide for posting not only posting private images without consent of the subject but also publishing sensitive information including name, location and social media links.

Brooklyn attorney Carrie A. Goldberg operates a private practice that has handled cases related to online-privacy-sex invasions and volunteers with revenge porn advocacy group End Revenge Porn. Goldberg called said she was glad to see the state prioritizing recognizing revenge porn as a crime but does see more work to be done both online and off.

Why is this law necessary in New York State?
I think that New York is responding to the need that is rippling throughout the rest of the country. Distributing photos of people is really harmful to the victims and exposes them to irreparable humiliation. and until now, there’s nothing that deters that behavior.

What kind of humiliation do revenge porn victims typically experience?
They’re horrified and terrified. Most of the victims are in their early 20s; I’ve seen some as young as 13. Many are in the early stages of the their careers, and it’s foolish to think one can get a job without employers doing a Google search, and images from revenge porn sites are the first hits when victims’ names are typed into search engines.

They’re also really scared about the impact that the images might have on their family and other personal relationships. The victim-shaming is particularly extreme in religious communities — it has profound effects. And in all cases, victims express an urgency to get the images removed.

But does the proposed law help take down those images?
Federal copyright laws usually applies to take down images, but no this law doesn’t.

What are some of the other weaknesses that this law doesn’t necessarily address?
This law requires that the perpetrator have the intent to harass, annoy or alarm the victim, but we actually see some situations outside of that pattern where the perpetrator might not have a relationship with the victim. They either hack into computers or take the images off someone’s cellphone.

In hackings or when there’s a drive for financial gain, you don’t have that intent. That person might not be covered by the law, but the victim would be equally harmed.

There are actually other versions of revenge porn laws floating around in Albany that have exceptions where the law wouldn’t apply, like when distribution was for law enforcement and reporting crimes, or if nudity is voluntary in public or commercial settings or if disclosure serves a legitimate public purpose like in the Anthony Weiner case.

What does public purpose mean?
There are certain situations when the public has an interest in knowing if our potential elected officials are sending crotch shots to other people and publishing them online.

We don’t want Sydney Leathers to be prosecuted under this law because she was exposing something about an elected official that is of value.

Is there any advice you would offer to folks who might be victimized by revenge porn?
If this bill gets passed: report it to law enforcement and don’t leave the precinct until they take the report.

But my advice is more to the people who have naked photos of other people: don’t distribute them — get rid of them. It’s your obligation. There’s nothing wrong with people sending naked pictures to other people — the problem lies in what the recipients do with them.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria



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