New York City Council Votes To Make Revenge Porn Illegal

The city council passed legislation to make it illegal to share "intimate images" of someone without their consent.

New York City is taking a stand against “revenge porn.”

The City Council passed a bill Thursday to make it a misdemeanor to distribute “sexually explicit videos or images of another person, with the intent to cause harm to the person depicted in such videos or images.” The vote was unanimous.

“More and more women, and occasionally men, have had their most private photos and videos shared publicly without their consent, with the intent to traumatize, humiliate or punish them,” Councilman Rory Lancman, who sponsored the bill, told reporters on Thursday.

“This is the kind of legislation that shouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately it is,” Lancman said.

Perpetrators of revenge porn could face a $1,000 fine, up to a year in prison or both. If Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it into law, the civil portion would take effect immediately and the criminal portion would go into effect after 60 days.

A summary of bill outlines that prohibited “intimate images” can include those revealing “of any portion of the genitals, the buttocks, or the female breast below the top of the areola, or an image of a person or persons engaged in an act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or masturbation.”

Distribution is defined as any physical or electronic sharing of an image to another person. 

2016 study by the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research found that 1 in 25 Americans had been a victim of “revenge porn.” That number jumps to 1 in 10 for women younger than 30.

An even more damning report by Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a nonprofit that works to combat online abuse, found that 1 in 8 social media users in the U.S. has been a target of “non-consensual pornography.” 

Victims of “revenge porn” report intense humiliation, body shame and fears for their personal safety following that breach of privacy. In some tragic circumstances, victims have killed themselves after the online abuse.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws against revenge porn. The New York Senate passed a bill in June outlawing the “non-consensual dissemination of sexually explicit images,” but it has yet to receive the governor’s signature. There is currently no federal law on revenge porn.