Gov. Cuomo Signs “Revenge Porn” Law

New York became the forty-sixth state in the country to criminalize “revenge porn” last month. The long-awaited law was signed by Gov. Cuomo makes sending private nude images online a Class A misdemeanor in the state.  Those who disseminate nude photographs of another person without their consent could face up to one year in jail and a civil fine of $1,000. At the signing ceremony, Gov. Cuomo said that “our laws have not kept pace with technology and how abusers can use it to harass, intimidate, and humiliate intimate partners.”

The inability of New York laws to protect victims of revenge porn became apparent in 2014 when a woman brought a harassment claim against an ex-boyfriend for sharing her private images on Twitter. In People v. Barber, the New York judge dismissed the case because “harassment” under that law required “direct communication” between the ex-boyfriend and the victim. Because the images were released on Twitter, the woman lacked any legal option to stop her ex-boyfriend.

The new revenge porn law goes even further than merely criminalizing revenge porn. New York’s revenge porn law will provide victims, usually women, the right to sue their perpetrator in civil court. In a first-in-the-country, New York’s law also gives victims the right to seek an injunction against any website where the images are posted. According to The New York Post, victims will be able to file an injunction within three years from the time the image is posted without their consent. Tech companies did not want any responsibility for the posting or removing of explicit, nonconsensual images and viewed it as a backdoor to their immunity from being held liable for content posted by its users.

According to lawmakers in Albany, lobbying by tech companies is one of the main reasons that New York, despite its progressive identity, is one of the last states to pass a revenge porn law. The law that will take effect in 60 days was originally proposed by lawmakers in 2013. In 2017, New York City grew tired of waiting for state action and passed its own, albeit limited, revenge porn law. Despite the long wait, victims of revenge porn say they hope the law will serve as a deterrent for anyone hoping to inflict the personal and professional humiliations they endured at the hands of their former partners. For those that the law does not deter, victims will at least be able to seek justice.

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