New York City now has a law that criminalizes revenge porn and the offender can potentially be fined a thousand dollars and/or be sent to prison for a maximum period of one year. There is no federal law at the moment that makes revenge porn illegal and effectively considers the offender as a criminal in the eyes of the law. Thirty-eight states across the country and Washington D.C. have laws against different forms of revenge porn and that includes images and videos. The state of New York does not yet have a law as the legislation is pending. But New York City takes the lead in the state with unanimous support for the legislation.
Revenge porn has been one of the banes of the information age. It happens unabated throughout the country. According to a report published by Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, one out of every eight internet users in the United States has been a victim of revenge porn. Despite the epidemic scale of the problem, there was no legal statute that could be used against those who made, circulated or facilitated revenge porn. With the new law, offenders in New York City can be punished, fined and imprisoned. Victims can take legal action against anyone who has taken pictures of their naked body, made and shared videos of their sexual activities, circulated nude images or any form of offensive media without their consent.
The law is a step in the right direction but there are some loopholes, mostly in the wording of the legislation that leaves plenty of room for defense lawyers to bail out the alleged perpetrators of the crime. For instance, the law states that anyone who has shared or threatened to share pictures or videos of their intimate moments with the intent to cause harm will be held guilty. There is a certain degree of ambiguity as to how the intend to cause harm would be established. Perpetrators can always claim their phones or computers were hacked or that they did not release or share the images and videos intentionally or with the intent to cause harm. There are of course cyber security apparatus in place that can always be used to verify the authenticity of such claims but the loophole exists and not many investigative authorities may be interested in delving into the depths of technicalities to find out how, when and why specific uploads and shares happened.
There is also a bit of a gray area in regards to jurisdiction. If a victim of revenge porn lives outside but the perpetrator lives in New York City then the crime can be tried in accordance with the law. However, if a perpetrator doesn’t live in the city, then a victim who may be a resident of New York City would not be able to file a legal case under the same law. The courts will have to decide on the jurisdictional issues here. Some people have complained that the fine amount is too low. Since criminality is harder to prove, most perpetrators may settle for the fine and not many may be deterred with just a thousand dollars penalty.