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It becomes at least the sixth state to have some sort of legislation on the books.

Utah just became the latest state to outlaw revenge porn.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed the state’s Substitute Distribution of Intimate Images act into law Monday.

Revenge porn is generally defined as the act of posting explicit photos of someone without their permission—think a jilted ex, spitefully sharing intimate photos of an old girlfriend. The most well-known example is probably the infamous Is Anyone Up, which was shut down in April 2012 and whose founder, Hunter Moore, is currently awaiting trial on a number of charges in California. 

The phenomenon is relatively new, so its legality varies widely across the U.S. In California, posting revenge porn is just a misdemeanor. But in New Jersey, it can be a felony. There isn’t yet a federal statute against revenge porn, and some free speech advocates worry that laws against it that aren’t carefully written will brush up against Americans’ First Amendment rights.

Law professor Mary Anne Franks, who talked with the bill’s author, Marie Poulson (D-Cottonwood Heights), in its early stages, told the Daily Dot that Utah’s law was “an important step” but ultimately “extremely disappointing.”

In particular, she noted that Utah will only consider something revenge porn if it has “intent to cause emotional distress or harm”—that might work against a particular blogger posting pictures of a particular ex, but wouldn’t necessarily stop people who run such sites for money.

“The harm [those webmasters] in fact cause victims is no less serious than the vengeful ex-partner,” Franks said.

“This requirement gives people a free pass to ruin lives using sexually explicit images so long as they can plausibly argue they had some other motive other than harassment or causing distress.”

In addition to California and New Jersey, Utah joins, Alaska, Idaho, and Texas in having at least some sort of revenge porn legislation.

Photo by Karina Hak/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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.