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Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:01 am

Trying to stop revenge porn

 

The electronic sharing of certain obscene images could soon be a criminal offense in Illinois.

State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, is sponsoring legislation that would make it a crime when an individual knowingly places, posts or reproduces a pornographic or nude image or video on the Internet without the consent of the individual shown.

Similar legislation, called “revenge porn” bills, are appearing in states as a result of a now defunct but once popular website, IsAnyoneUp.com. The website’s operator, Hunter Moore, would post pornographic images submitted to him and in some cases post the names and locations of those in the images. Moore would demand hundreds or thousands of dollars in exchange for removal of an image. The name “revenge porn” comes from the idea of ex-lovers submitting an image that was originally intended to be private as a form of spite or revenge.

That activity is what Drury hopes his legislation will deter. While the bill aims to punish those found soliciting or sharing images intended to be private, he hopes that the presence of a criminal code for “revenge porn” can discourage the risky sharing of nude or pornographic images in the first place.

“The goal is to prevent the conduct on the front end,” he said. “And the only way you can prevent the conduct is to prevent the distribution in all of its forms.”

Senator Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, has also introduced revenge porn legislation in the Senate. Drury said while he supports both measures and a revenge porn bill is needed in Illinois, Hastings’ bill is limited to photographs or videos posted online. Drury’s legislation goes a step further to include content that is shared via email or other information-sharing tools, whether it’s posted on a public or private webpage or not. By not specifying the offense as “posting” on a website, Drury said, he wants to “future-proof” the bill for possible new applications and programs for sharing images and videos in the future.

“Right now, people post revenge porn on the Internet … but 20 years from now, it may be something else,” he said. “Our bill says that if you distribute it, it’s a crime.”

The measure has received little opposition at the Capitol, as it passed in the House by a vote of 110 to 2. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois opposes the measure. The group has argued that the civil law process already remedies cases of revenge porn and requires that images be removed in some cases. Under present law, claims of misconduct after adult pornographic images or videos have been shared online or through electronic messaging can only be reprimanded in Illinois through civil court process or lawsuit.

Two states, New Jersey and California, already have revenge porn laws and several others have pending legislation. In California, the issue caught the attention of the public after a Christian school teacher resigned when a nude image of her began circulating online.

In addition to discouraging the unwanted sharing of pornographic images, Drury said he wants to see the sharing of such content originally intended to be private become a criminal offense for the protection of victims and their rights to privacy.

“You can never get back your privacy, you can never get back, in a lot of cases, the harm that has been done to you,” he said.

Drury emphasized the goal of this bill isn’t to prosecute a lot of people for violation of the law, but rather to discourage the breaching of privacy in the first place.

“A vast majority of the victims are women, and as time goes on, I think the victim pool is going to become younger and younger as more people start using technology,” he said.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com­­­­.

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