House panel OKs 'revenge porn' bill, with caveat

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by Bob Christie/Associated Press

Video report by Dennis Welch

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 10 at 9:56 AM

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona House committee advanced a bill on Thursday aimed at stopping jilted lovers from posting explicit pictures of their former flames on the Internet to get revenge.

The bill from Rep. J.D. Mesnard would make it a felony to post nude photos of a person without their written consent.

Despite concerns that the bill was too broadly written, it unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee.

The vote came after a hearing in which members questioned whether the Legislature should criminalize behavior that occurs after people decide to share nude photos of themselves, and whether teens who receive "sexting" photos might be caught up by the law.

"Sexting" involves sending racy images to peers that are sometimes resent to others. Current law makes the practice a petty offence.

Mesnard told the committee he would work to tighten the language to exclude teen "sexting."

"In all honesty I wish this bill were not necessary," Mesnard said. "But as technology changes, people find new ways of hurting people and we are tasked with finding new ways to deal with them.

"People have taken their own lives because of the mortification that comes from these situations," he said.

House Bill 2515 is one of many being considered by lawmakers across the nation in response to the posting of "revenge porn" that has been made easier by the growth of social networks. Last year, California made it a misdemeanor to post such images.

Committee members worried that the Legislature would assist people whose own actions led their victimization.

"You can't absolve somebody of real stupidity," said Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. "Once you send it out I think there is some difficulty in claiming that you have a right to privacy. I try to teach my kids, anything you send you better assume somebody's going to get hold of it."

Will Gaona of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence said the new law was needed.

"These images can be used by an abusive partner to trap someone in a relationship," Gaona said, adding there currently are few repercussions in the law for such behavior.

Farnsworth wasn't alone in expressing unease while voting to advance the bill.

"We certainly do not want to have this going on," said Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa. "At what level are we saying `don't to this, it's stupid, but if you do it you're going to be protected. '"

The bill now advances to the full House after a review in the House Rules Committee.

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