Arizona passes the harshest revenge porn law in the U.S.

Arizona signed into law Wednesday what’s believed to be the harshest revenge porn bill in the nation.

Laws preventing revenge porn—or, more accurately, non-consensual pornography—are sweeping the country, and seek to criminalize the act of posting intimate photos online for the purposes of causing the subject harm. Arizona is now at least the ninth state to have such laws on the books, and one of only a few to make revenge porn a felony on the first offense.

While the debate rages over whether such laws should specify if the person who publishes photos intended to cause harm to the person depicted in them—if yes, they don’t protect every victim; if no, it could run into free speech concerns—Arizona’s definition takes it even further.

“It’s extremely troubling,” Lee Rowland, staff attorney at the ACLU, told the Daily Dot, noting that the law “also applies to pictures where the person isn’t identifiable.”

“So posting a disembodied picture of a woman’s breast—so long as you ‘should have known’ they didn’t consent—could support a felony charge,” she said. “I think the law is overbroad and covers a significant amount of fully-protected speech.”

Mary Anne Franks, an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Law, helped craft the Arizona law and similar legislation for other states. She says Arizona’s law provides the proper punishment for those who publishing photos online without the subject’s consent, but stipulates that it leaves little room for cases that may benefit the public. 

“It’s the first state law to categorize this conduct as a sex offense, which is key to social understanding of the harm, and the felony classification underscores its seriousness,” Franks told the Daily Dot in an email. “I do wish that it included an exception for disclosures made in the public interest.”

Only two other states, Idaho and New Jersey, would consider a first-time revenge porn violation to be a felony. But in Idaho, a poster has to have been aware that the person in the photo never wanted it published, and New Jersey has an exception for “lawful purposes.”

A representative for Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told the Daily Dot Wednesday that she planned to introduce a national revenge porn bill soon, but declined to comment on how it would define the term.

Illustration by Jason Reed

Kevin Collier

Kevin Collier

A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.