We live in a modern age where digital media can easily be distributed, manipulated, and used to harm individuals. With the near omnipresent existence of smart phones capable of producing and sending high quality digital images, our society has had to find ways to adapt to this new technology and the problems that are associated with such communication.
One area of growing abuse of digital media is the posting of graphic images that were never intended to be seen by a wider audience. The passing of intimate images is nothing new, but what is new is the ease with which these intimate images can be used against a person if a relationship turns sour. An image that was intended to be private can be posted to pornographic websites, texted to individuals, and emailed to entire contact lists if an individual is seeking to hurt a former partner.
To this end, Representative Craig Hall (Republican – West Valley City) is proposing HB 65 – Criminal Law Amendments. The bill proposes that, if an intimate image is distributed without a persons permission, the person who distributed the image is guilty of a third degree felony, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Though there is something to be said about personal responsibility when sending such images in the first place and opponents have argued that, because there was at one point a free exchange of information, an individual sacrifices any right to privacy and puts themselves at risk of being harmed in the future. In short, people should simply live with the consequences and should have no recourse.
This mentality blames with the victim rather than with the person committing the the breach of a persons trust and privacy. We do not apply this same logic to identity theft, for example. Yes, it may not be wise to send a “Nigerian Prince” your Social Security Number in a free exchange of information, but that does not mean that an individual simply gives up their right to full legal recourse when their identity is stolen.
Opponents of the bill also say that the distribution of private images is similar to asking someone to keep a secret and then having that trust violated. This view seems horribly simplistic and ignores the legal concept that the public disclosure of private facts is not a permissible activity if the activity serves no legitimate public interest and that the disclosure caused harm. It is clear that distributing a salacious photograph in an attempt to shame or discredit an individual meets both of these criteria and that the state should have punishments in place for individuals who violate this personal right to privacy. Also, as opposed to secrets and rumors, there are digital footprints that trace an individual to an initial photograph.
This bill protects victims, punishes those who wish to do harm, and is sound policy for the State of Utah.
To contact Representative Hall, click here or call 801-573-1774.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker