- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - State legislators are weighing a bill that would make it a crime to post online revenge porn - private explicit pictures or videos of people published by former intimate partners as a way to harass them.

Rep. Kesha Ram said Wednesday she had been contacted by women in the Burlington area who said they’ve been the targets of revenge porn postings. Some websites have popped up specializing in carrying such images and videos and tied to specific geographic regions, including Vermont, Ram said.

The bill, H.105, is headlined, “An act relating to disclosure of sexually explicit images without consent.” It would make publishing such images a crime punishable by two years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine on a first offense, and a repeat offender could face three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The legislation follows the conviction of a California man who ran a website devoted to revenge porn and another site that charged fees to people who wanted him to take down material depicting them.

The man was found guilty not under California’s 2013 law aiming to crack down on such sites but on 27 other counts including identity theft and extortion. He faces up to 20 years in prison. He voluntarily took the sites offline when contacted by investigators.

Women who testified at the man’s trial said they were harassed by strangers after his site posted their videos, home cities and sometimes links to their Facebook pages.

The executive director of the Vermont office of the American Civil Liberties Union, Allen Gilbert, said his group has concerns about the measure.

“We always have concerns when a criminal penalty is attached to regulating an expressive activity,” Gilbert said. “It’s a First Amendment issue.”

Such matters would better be addressed in civil court, where an aggrieved party could sue for a damaged reputation, Gilbert added.

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