RI Becomes First State to Veto Revenge Porn Legislation

RI Becomes First State to Veto
Revenge Porn Legislation

Over the last few years, 34 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation designed to address Cyber Exploitation (aka Revenge Porn).   In June, House Bill 7537, which would ban Cyber Exploitation in the Ocean State, passed both the Rhode Island Senate and House with only a single dissenting vote.

The legislation provided for exceptions where dissemination of the unauthorized images was made

in the public interest, including the reporting of unlawful conduct, or lawful and common practice 26 of law enforcement, criminal reporting, corrections, legal proceedings, medical activities, 27 scientific activities, or educational activities; [OR where it] constitutes a matter of public concern

This is greater than that provided under California law and tracks the model legislation proposed by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Nonetheless, the ACLU and other groups opposed the legislation urging a veto on the grounds that the bill

could have limited the distribution of a wide array of mainstream, constitutionally protected material, including items of legitimate news, commentary, and historical interest.

On June 20th, Rhode Island’s first woman Governor, Gina Raimondo, became the first Governor to veto revenge porn legislation.

While the bill contains exceptions if the image is disseminated for a lawful purpose or in the public interest or when the dissemination of the image is a matter of public concern, none of these terms are defined, making it unclear what conduct is prohibited. Ultimately, that determination would be left to a jury in a criminal case. The bill is apparently intended to curb the dissemination of private sexual material over the internet, but its sweep is much broader it could also cover works of art that depict the human body. And, unlike virtually all other similar state statutes, 7537 does not include basic safeguards such as the requirement that intent to harass be demonstrated for conduct to be criminal.

It remains to be seen whether the Rhode Island legislature will reconvene to override the veto or amend the legislation.

One thought on “RI Becomes First State to Veto Revenge Porn Legislation

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