State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Revenge porn bill's progress may slow in the House

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 29, 2014 5:54 PM
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A proposal to criminalize revenge porn has quickly passed the state Senate and now goes on to an uncertain future in the House.

Revenge porn refers to nude photos of people, posted online with their identifying information against their wishes. A proposal to ban it will be taken up by a House committee, after it received Senate approval in less than two months.

"I still can't believe it moved as quickly as it did," said the proposal's sponsor, Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks). In her bill, she calls revenge porn "intimate partner harassment" (photos are commonly posted by jilted ex-lovers).

Schwank's measure is now before the House, but it may be competing for attention with other proposals aiming to crack down on revenge porn. Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he's looking a couple different bills, in addition to Schwank's measure. "I'm hoping to get something moving by the spring," he said.

Only California and New Jersey have passed laws attempting to criminalize revenge porn. The bans target individuals who post images, either with intent to harass or without the pictured person's permission. Schwank's proposal most closely resembles California's law, singling out perpetrators based on their intent to harass the pictured person. But none of these pieces of legislation were written to target websites that host revenge porn. Recent arrests of such website owners have been made under other state and federal laws.

Other issues remain, like concerns that cracking down on revenge porn would restrict free speech. The Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union is neutral on the bill.

Schwank, for her part, said she hopes any desire to perfect a revenge porn ban doesn't stymie efforts to get it to the governor's desk.

"I don't know that we're always necessarily cutting edge in this Pennsylvania state Legislature, and I'm including myself in that assessment," she said. "So I'm pleased that we're going to take up something that's not necessarily already in place in 46 other states, but we're actually one of the first few."


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