By MELANIE BALAKIT
ANNAPOLIS (March 1, 2014)—A bill that would make it a crime to maliciously post sexually explicit images on the Internet without the subjects consent passed unanimously through the Maryland House of Delegates Friday. The measure, known as the revenge porn bill, will now move forward to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
I call it the dark-side of technology, said Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, who co-sponsored the bill with Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County. The bill had 44 other sponsors in the House.
People break in phones or computers and steal these photos, or have photos and understand that they are private, and post them to the Internet anyways, said Simmons.
The bill would make maliciously posting sexually explicit images on the Internet without the subjects consent a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Simmons said that people, mostly women, are put into difficult situations when they are threatened with the possibility that their photos would be posted online.
The bill would deter cyber criminals, said Simmons, referring to people who threaten others with posting sexually explicit photos online.
Sexually explicit photos are often shared with an intimate partner according to a legislative analysis of the bill. The recipient can post the photos online after the relationship ends. Victims can face difficulty pursuing criminal charges because the photos were shared willingly.
Annmarie Chiarini became a victim of revenge porn when her ex-boyfriend posted explicit photos of her online to intentionally harm her. Chiarini is now an advocate for Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about the issue of online harassment.
I could have lost my job, my home, custody of my children, but the person who did this to me is still living his life, Chiarini testified last month, according to the House Judiciary Committee video of the hearing. The Towson woman is a single mother who works at a community college as an English professor.
Chiarini said when the incident happened, she received no support from family or friends. She even attempted suicide.
Its also difficult to pursue criminal charges against websites that publish sexually explicit photos without the subjects consent. Under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, these websites are not legally responsible for the content because they received it from a third-party source, according to the analysis of the bill.
Posting an explicit photo is like an eternal stigma, said Simmons. Once the photo is out there, its out there for the whole world - theres no effective way to get them down, he said.
If passed, Maryland would become the third state to specifically ban revenge porn, following California and New Jersey. Similar legislation has been introduced in at least three other states.