Northeast Times

Murt bill targets revenge porn

The things we do for love … and live to re­gret.

Shar­ing in­tim­ate pho­tos has fast be­come something that has joined a mod­ern “I wish I hadn’t done that” list be­cause not all love is a hap­pily-ever-after story. When a re­la­tion­ship ends badly, one party might get back at the oth­er by shar­ing those in­tim­ate, maybe even naughty, im­ages with the world, much to the hu­mi­li­ation of the per­son who posed for them. 

Smart phones, laptops, web­sites all make such emo­tion­al re­tali­ation as easy as press­ing a but­ton. When those once-private pic­tures are out in the great blue nowhere of the In­ter­net, they can live on and on as they are copied and re­copied.

It’s called “re­venge porn,” and a loc­al state le­gis­lat­or has put for­ward a bill aimed at curb­ing that ab­use.

State Rep. Tom Murt (R-152nd dist.), whose dis­trict in­cludes parts of the North­east as well as east­ern Mont­gomery County, in­tro­duced a bill that ad­dresses re­venge porn both crim­in­ally and civilly, he said in a June 12 phone in­ter­view.

Re­venge porn can dam­age repu­ta­tions or ca­reers in a mat­ter of seconds, he said.

“It’s a dis­grace­ful prac­tice that must be stopped,” Murt said. “What we are talk­ing about is cy­ber ex­tor­tion and cy­ber hu­mi­li­ation, and it must end.”

House Bill 2107 re­cently was ap­proved in the state House, Murt said, and is now be­fore the state Sen­ate, where the rep­res­ent­at­ive ex­pects it to do well.

If the bill is en­acted, it would be un­law­ful in Pennsylvania to dis­sem­in­ate an in­tim­ate im­age with the in­tent of caus­ing emo­tion­al dis­tress to the per­son de­pic­ted, Murt said. Right now, he said, “there is no such pro­vi­sion in Pennsylvania stat­utes.”

Crim­in­al pen­al­ties set forth in Murt’s bill make “un­law­ful dis­sem­in­a­tion of an in­tim­ate im­age” a mis­de­mean­or with pen­al­ties of not more than six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Civilly, it gives the vic­tim the right to sue, he said, and at­tempt to get dam­ages, at­tor­ney fees and court costs.

Murt said his meas­ure was promp­ted by the ad­vance­ment of tech­no­logy that makes re­venge porn so easy. “Years ago, there was no need for something like this,” he said.

The le­gis­lat­or said there have been oth­er at­tempts to crim­in­al­ize re­venge porn. Law­makers have taken a couple of stabs at it, he said, but ad­ded he be­lieves his meas­ure is su­per­i­or in that it pro­tects people even if the re­venge porn ori­gin­ates out­side of Pennsylvania if either the vic­tim or per­pet­rat­or is loc­ated in Pennsylvania.

“This is long over­due,” Murt said. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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