Huffpost Politics

Rhode Island Revenge Porn Bill Gets New Push

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State lawmakers are looking to make it a crime to post explicit photos of ex-spouses or romantic partners as a way of humiliating them.

Lawmakers preparing for the 2014 session of the General Assembly are pitching legislation that would make so-called revenge porn a felony punishable by jail time and a fine.

The term revenge porn refers to sexually explicit photos or video of a person that is posted online without his or her consent, often by an angry ex-partner. One of the lawmakers behind the bill, Sen. Erin Lynch, D-Cranston, said it's a problem she learned about through her work as a divorce attorney.

Lynch said tough criminal penalties might make someone think twice before posting a damaging photo.

"Someone could be the most important person in your life one day and then six months later there can be so much hatred and venom that something like this happens," she said. "It could be the most embarrassing thing in your life."

Lynch said the legislation will be carefully crafted to ensure it doesn't potentially run afoul of constitutional protections on free speech. Rep. Donald Lally, D-South Kingstown, plans to introduce the bill in the House.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office first proposed the legislation a few years ago as part of a larger package of bills relating to the Internet. It never received a vote.

Another bill being pushed by Kilmartin would make it a felony for an adult to send sexually explicit material electronically to a minor. Kilmartin spokeswoman Amy Kempe said some people looking to prey sexually on minors will send them explicit images as a way of cultivating a relationship.

Under the proposed law, an adult would have to transmit the photo or video knowing that the recipient is underage. Rep. Peter Martin, D-Newport, and Sen. Frank Lombardi, D-Cranston, plan to introduce the bill.

Kilmartin said the Internet has created new opportunities for predators to victimize children.

"It is imperative that our laws are updated to reflect changing technology — just as we protect children on our streets, we must also ensure their safety online," he said in a statement.

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