AZ Legislature hits send on revenge porn bill

A bill that would make revenge porn a felony in Arizona passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The bill would prohibit people from sharing or publishing photographs and videotapes of people in the nude or engaged in sexual acts without the subject’s written consent.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-17) was inspired to propose the legislation after reading the news and seeing that California had taken up the issue in their legislature. He did a little digging and saw that while only New Jersey, California and Alaska have passed specific legislation, many states had taken up the cause.

“We’ve read these stories of people who have taken pictures and have posted them online. People have committed suicide, they’ve been just mortified,” Mesnard said.

Mesnard is hoping that this bill is the first step in a larger education process that teaches people that revenge porn isn’t acceptable. “We might need to see a culture change, and I don’t mean like the broad culture, I just mean an understanding in people that if you do this, this is wrong, it’s not ok,” he said

Mesnard combined three different sources to write the bill. He used the existing voyeurism bill as a template for the new legislation; language from Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami that has written model legislation that other states have used; and talked to the Maricopa County Attorney.

However, during the committee meeting, many of the lawmakers had problems with the language of the bill. Most felt that juveniles shouldn’t have to face criminal charges that could potentially ruin their lives. Rep. Ethan Orr (R-9) felt that an educational component needed to be added to the bill to help protect teens that didn’t know any better.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-12) felt that while juveniles wouldn’t know any better, adults would be stupid to send nude photos over the internet and text message.

“You can’t absolve somebody of real stupidity,” said Farnsworth. “Once you send it out I think there is some difficulty in claiming that you have a right to privacy. I try to teach my kids, anything you send you better assume somebody’s going to get hold of it.”

Mesnard used to feel the same way, but he has recently backed away from that opinion.

“I’m not going to get involved in what a person does in the context of a trusting relationship,” Mesnard said. “At the end of the day, what’s wrong is that a person uses that to just mortify somebody to the point where some people have committed suicide.”