New York’s Revenge Porn Bill Dies … For Now

Eric Lieberman | Deputy Editor

A New York bill aimed at combating the growing trend known as revenge porn was killed early Thursday, according to the New York Post, a publication that blames Google for its abrupt, but potentially temporary dismissal.

The once-tentative proposal was set to outlaw the sharing of sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent, and establish a punishment of up to one year in jail. It also was designed in a way that would empower victims with the ability to hold websites that feature the content legally liable.

The Daily Caller News Foundation wrote about the issue of revenge porn at length by interviewing a victim who serves as an unofficial activist and including the legal nuances and potential repercussions of creating certain legislation to try to stop it.

The New York Post alleges in multiple, very recent reports that Google was the primary reason the prospect of passing the legislation for the state — New York City already has a similar law — ended.

“It’s deeply disturbing that Google and tech lobbyists were quiet as a church mouse for the five years this bill has been percolating in Albany and then literally the morning it’s up for vote, they bulldoze in with coercive demands on our lawmakers to change the language,” attorney Carrie Goldberg, who was spearheading the lobbying of the bill, told the New York Post. “It’s a disgrace how weak our lawmakers look for bowing down to these tech corporate overlords.”

Google for the most part didn’t directly try to push the state legislators in a specific direction, as it often lobbies through the Internet Association, a trade association representing companies like Netflix, Amazon, eBay, Uber, Twitter, Spotify and Facebook.

Just like their opposition to changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which protects websites from being held legally responsible for users’ actions and content — Google and the larger industry seem to interpret the bill as an encroachment of their freedom to operate, and thus flourish. (RELATED: How A Law That Will Allegedly Help Stop Online Sex Trafficking May Undermine The Internet)

Opponents to revenge porn laws worry that unwitting people who access or share lewd images will be incriminated even though they didn’t know the subject of the photo or video didn’t consent to it having been recorded.

Legislation on this issue was introduced in 2013. The most recent bill likely won’t be considered again until next year.

Google declined to respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment, but pointed to a company blog post as well as its official policy regarding the horrifying actions.

“Going forward, we’ll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results,” Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, wrote in June 2015. “This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results.”

The Internet Association says they aren’t against all legislation that tries to address this issue, which seems to be growing as technology use grows. A representative for the influential group tells TheDCNF, for example, that it didn’t oppose a bill with the same apparent aim in Rhode Island.

The spokesman said that the language in the New York bill in particular is problematic by being overly broad in certain areas.

“Internet Association and our member companies share the goals of New York State policymakers who want to rid the internet of non-consensual sexual imagery,” Internet Association Director of the Northeast Region John Olsen said in a statement provided to TheDCNF. “We already work to prevent bad actors from using platforms to engage in this terrible activity. We will continue working with lawmakers who are committed to solving this problem.”

This post has been updated with more information and comment from Google and the Internet Association.

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