Politics & Government

Brownback signs bill outlawing ‘revenge porn’

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka
Kansas Statehouse in Topeka File photo

It will be illegal to post nude photos or videos of a person on the Internet without his or her consent under a bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

The law is intended to curb the online phenomenon known as revenge porn, in which people upload sexual photos or videos of an ex-spouse, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to the Internet without their permission.

In many cases the photos or videos were taken consensually within the confines of a relationship, but their posting online happens as an act of harassment after that relationship has ended.

HB 2501, which Brownback signed Tuesday, will allow for prosecutions under the state’s blackmail and breach of privacy laws when the material is posted without a person’s permission.

A felony conviction of breach of privacy would result in presumptive probation for a first time offense, but a felony blackmail conviction could result in up to six years in prison.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, one of the legislation’s primary supporters, said in a message she’s happy to see that “Kansans will now be safe from this terrible crime.” She added she hoped there would be “similar movement on this issue at the federal level as well.”

More than half of the states in the country now explicitly prohibit revenge porn, but no ban exists at the federal level.

Although the new law creates new penalties for revenge porn, it also lessens the penalty for transmitting nude photos of minors when the offender is a teenager.

Prior law treated the unlawful transmission of a visual depiction of a child as a felony offense regardless of the offender’s age and required that a person register as a sex offender.

That means that teenagers who share sexual messages and photos on their smartphones, commonly referred to as “sexting,” are often committing felonies without realizing it.

The new law reduces the penalty to a misdemeanor if the perpetrator is under the age of 19, which will prevent them having to register as a sex offender.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3