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Revenge porn law a difficult yet imperative next step in Texas

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Legislators, attorneys, and literally anyone who has access to a computer are pretty much in consensus that most legal statute has not evolved as fast as technology has, leaving gaping holes in how to address crime perpetrated through the Internet. Revenge porn websites constitute one area in which people complain statute is lacking.

This weekend, though, revenge-porn site operator Kevin Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted on 21 counts of identity theft and six counts of extortion.

If the title isn’t already self-explanatory; revenge porn websites are essentially online platforms for people, often scorned exes, to post intimate pictures of others — without the consent of the photographed person — along with their personal information as an act of revenge. The website owner makes money by requiring victims to pay large sums of money to have the photos of them removed, only for them to pop up again on another site.

Texas lawmakers introduced a bill this session, known as the Relationship Privacy Act, that would give victims the right to sue the website owner and the person who posted the images without their consent. If this bill makes it out of committee and all the way to the governor’s desk, Texas would become the 14th state to outlaw revenge porn.

Opponents of these kinds of bills most often argue the bill fundamentally violates first amendment rights to freedom of speech.

That’s a pretty weak argument if you ask me. I’d bet money the founding fathers did not have scorned ex-lovers in mind when they whipped up the Bill of Rights. There are plenty of ways to tailor revenge porn laws so that they do not infringe on artistic freedom of speech. Revenge porn is posted with the intent to harm the person in the photograph, emotionally, psychologically, or physically. This differentiation makes a clear distinction between revenge porn and images that are protected “speech” under the first amendment.

The rapid evolution of the Internet has given people just that many more avenues to harass others, especially behind the comfort of their own computer screen. It’s also made it that much more difficult to pass legislation that does not intrude on free speech. Let’s say that this legislation does minimize the span of protected speech. If that risk does not seem worthwhile, what does that say about our society and the hierarchy of American values? Is it worth it to risk the emotional and psychical well-being of (mostly) women who have had their privacy and their bodies violated, just so we can make sure that the circle of protect speech does not shrink?

Legal statute is almost always reactionary, and the reaction always seems to come a little too late for some victims. 

The ball is rolling for a revenge porn law in Texas — a state that always seems to be one of the last states to passed much-needed laws — and no one should stop it.

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Revenge porn law a difficult yet imperative next step in Texas