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Bills would criminalize 'revenge porn' - abc27 WHTM

Bills would criminalize 'revenge porn'

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

There are websites that encourage jilted ex-boyfriends to post racy, naked or sexually explicit photos or videos of their ex-girlfriends.

It is called "revenge porn" and it's currently legal in Pennsylvania.

"This happens a lot of times when there's a bad breakup between a couple," said Rep. Tara Toohil (R-Luzerne). "Couples have been trying to revenge against each other by posting intimate photos and it's an invasion of privacy."

If Toohil has her way it would also be illegal. She's a co-sponsor of House Bill 1901. There's also Senate Bill 1167 that would make it illegal to post such material without a person's consent.

"We're trying to rein in bad behavior," said Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) the minority leader who expects a bill to get to the governor's desk. "These are folks who willfully and maliciously intend to take something that was done consensually in most cases and put it into the Internet and the worldwide web with the specific intent to harm someone's reputation."

In Toohil's bill, if the photos or video are of a minor, it would be a felony offense.

"They're usually gonna have to spend the rest of their life trying to get that photo to come down there off of the Internet," said Toohil. "It effects your employment. A lot of these website are very nasty."

It is a sensitive topic for Toohil. Prior to her last election, embarrassing photos surfaced from her past. There was drug paraphernalia in the photo and Toohil appeared close to kissing another woman.

It was an attempt to wound her politically. It didn't work. Toohil won her election anyway.

But Google search her name and that photo still pops up.

"I did want to stand up for any woman or man who is hurt or humiliated on the Internet. I think people's rights need to be protected and people shouldn't be defaming you," Toohil said.

It will be argued that the victims could thwart the crime by being a bit more camera shy.

"Probably the smart thing to do is not have yourself taped doing anything you wouldn't want to be seen doing," said Rep. Seth Grove (R-York). "Then we wouldn't have these things."

Toohil agrees and counsels young people about the dangers of inappropriate photos and the Internet. But she also feels one moment of indiscretion shouldn't haunt a person for a lifetime, and perpetrators should pay a price.

"People might put themselves in a bad position," Toohil said. "But they're a victim nonetheless. It can have a lasting effect. There have been suicides. It's life altering for many people."

 

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