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Bill intended to stop ‘intimate harassment’

Makes transmission of explicit photos illegal when intent is to harm

POSTED: January 29, 2014 4:00 a.m.

A bill introduced last week in the Georgia House of Representatives would make the electronic transmission of explicit photos illegal when the intent is to harm or harass the individual in the pictures.

"The bill is called Intimate Harassment, and in essence, what it does is attempts to address an advancement in technology," said Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, who authored the bill.

Similar to "revenge pornography" laws that have been passed in other states, a person could be found guilty of intimate harassment if he or she knowingly electronically sends, transmits or posts photos in order to cause emotional distress to the person depicted in the photo.

Tanner outlined several examples of what could be construed as intimate harassment, from high school and college students who may have allowed a girlfriend or boyfriend to snap pictures, to spouses making videos of their husband or wife intended to never be seen publicly by anyone else.

"Then, all of a sudden, years later when they're out of college about to start their career or they are no longer married to their former spouse, those pictures start popping up on pornography websites, showing up in email, it starts being distributed electronically in any way," Tanner said.

"Under current law, that's not against the law. Someone could do that and spread that and even sell that picture to websites and collect money for that picture from pornography type sites, and there would be nothing you could do about it."

Tanner said his bill would give law enforcement the ability to investigate claims of intimate harassment and district attorneys to prosecute cases if they meet the criteria.

"In the past, before technology became so open where you could send something like that to 100,000 people with the click of a mouse, it wasn't as big of a concern," he said. "But as technology continues to improve and more people are using technology now to attempt to hurt people ... with this, it would become a crime."

During his research for the bill, Tanner said he met with various victims groups, including those that deal with domestic violence situations where pictures have been obtained and then used against a domestic partner, that agree the issue needs to be addressed.

"It's a serious issue," he said. "I just feel like we need to address it and give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to protect these people. And many times the victims, when the pictures are actually taken, are young people who should know better but they make mistakes and that haunts them for the rest of their lives."

The bill was introduced Thursday and read for the first time in the House on Friday.

Tanner said he believes he has the support needed for its passage.

"I've worked closely with the prosecuting attorneys council in the state, making sure they were comfortable with the bill, and they have been and they're very supportive," he said.

He also talked with free speech groups "to make sure we were balancing the First Amendment rights of the person that had the picture and make sure we were not impending on their rights."

"We're very comfortable and confident that we've been able to accomplish that in the bill," he said.

 

 

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