Bill Seeks to Stop ‘Revenge Porn’ in Texas

The Texas Legislature is taking action to stop what has become known as “Revenge Porn.” Long gone are the days when ending a love connection means a lot of name calling and bad-mouthing. Now, breaking up has gotten a whole lot harder to do. In a “selfie-driven” social media age where a jilted ex-lover can plaster X-rated photos of that formerly dearly beloved all over the internet. Revenge porn turns private citizens into accidental overnight porn stars. Texas has a few bills gaining traction in the state legislature to stop the widespread malicious cyber-madness.

One of the revenge porn bills in the Texas legislature, Senate Bill 1135, passed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on March 31. It would criminalize revenge porn and permit its victims to sue the offender in the civil courts.

Co-authored by Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), Garcia told the Senate committee that the bill “tackles a disturbing trend of ex-partners posting nude, explicit photos of women online without consent and “seeking revenge or to cause harm,” according to Texas Lawyer.

Garcia was angling for even stiffer legislation in a substitute bill that would target the person who posted the photos and the owner of the website that published the images. They would face criminal penalties and civil liability, Texas Lawyer indicated.

Victim Hollie Toups and over a dozen other Texas women, who were horrified to discover nude photos of themselves online, joined Garcia for the senate hearing. Toups told Fox 7 Austin that the images of her were a decade old and were intended to be private. She said that some were “possibly hacked from her phone” and the pictures even showed her location on a map, making her feel unsafe in her own home. After Toups sued, the website Texxan.com was taken down.

“Posting a nude or sexually explicit photo of a person on the internet without their permission, and that’s the key here, without their permission, is frankly not already a crime. When I found this out, I felt compelled I needed to do something,” Garcia told news media.

Also present was Harris County Assistant Defense Attorney Justin Wood. He pointed out that “the law has to catch up with technology and I think this is one of these examples that’s been laid out perfectly today and tragically for people like Hollie.”

Last year, a Houston woman was awarded $500,000 by a jury when she took her revenge porn case to court. The unnamed woman was horrified to learn that her private photographic moments between her and her ex-boyfriend had been splashed all over the internet, ABC 13 Houston reported.

The companion bill to SB 1135 is House Bill 496, authored by El Paso Democratic Rep. Mary González. It is still in the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. SB 1135 and HB 496 were filed at the same time.

As these bills continue to gain traction, they were preceded by revenge porn legislation in California which passed in 2013. The Golden State was the first in the nation to nab a revenge porn perpetrator.

According to Breitbart California, 36-year-old Noe Iniguez was sentenced to a year in jail under the statute. He was also  found guilty of violating restraining laws, and was given 36 months’ probation, domestic violence counseling and was ordered to stay away from his ex-girlfriend.

Despite growing support to criminalize the vengeful publishing of nude photos, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the California bill’s “overly vague attempt to restrict online activity,” the Sacramento Bee reported.

Should either one of the proposed Texas bills be enacted into law, the Lone Star state will join California, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, is one of 13 states that have cyber-exploitation laws. In addition to California, the other states are Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.


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