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Friday, September 24, 2021

Legislature Sends Two “Revenge Porn” Bills To Governor Inslee


OLYMPIA—Justice for victims of “revenge porn” is on the horizon once Governor Inslee signs a couple of bills that received unanimous votes in both chambers.

House Bill 2160, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver) will provide for civil liability against any person who intentionally and without consent distributes an intimate image of another person. The other legislation, House Bill 1272, sponsored by Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Lynden), creates the crime of disclosing intimate images as a gross misdemeanor on the first offense and a class C felony thereafter.

“The support in the House and Senate for these two measures shows how serious this problem is,” said Wylie. “The damage that stems from misuse of technology is very real and requires that we set standards to protect people from this kind of attack. We need both a criminal and a civil approach to fully address the range of intent and harm to victims of this despicable practice. I trust that these measures will provide both remedies and a deterrent to this behavior in the future.”

“Revenge porn” is the term commonly used to describe the practice of posting private, intimate images of another person on the Internet without their authorization, usually with the intent of humiliating or inflicting damage.

Rep. Wylie worked closely with Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) and Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) on the bill language. Under HB 2160, a person is liable for distributing an intimate image of another intentionally and without consent when the image was:

  • Entrusted by another person when it should remain private and its reckless or intentional distribution causes the victim emotional distress; or
  • Knowingly obtained without authorization or stolen from the other person’s property, accounts, messages, files, or resources.

“I am proud that we have stood up for victims whose lives have been shattered by the sharing of intimate images.” said Orwall. “We hope these laws will help them find justice and rebuild their lives.”

The legislation establishes that anyone who distributes an intimate image of another is liable for up to $10,000 or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees, and costs. The court may also award injunctive relief as it deems necessary.

The measure also requires the court to inform a plaintiff as early as possible that he or she may use an alias to keep his or her identity confidential.

“My primary concern is that young people understand that it is not safe to take or share these types of images,” said Padden. “Distributing them, especially in a way that is intended to intimidate or harass someone, should never be acceptable. And when the image is of someone who is underage, it is essentially distributing child pornography. These bills are aimed at reducing this type of ‘revenge porn’ and holding those who commit these malicious acts accountable.”

Both measures are expected to be signed by the governor in the coming days.

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