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Naked pictures on the Internet would face restrictions under proposed Florida law

4:30 PM, Mar 7, 2013   |    comments
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(Florida Today) -- A friend alerted her to the nude photos first - he sent her a link to a site that was displaying them. He suggested that she might want to talk to her ex-boyfriend. The photos were posted on a pornography site and included information that identified the 22-year-old Brevard County resident.

At first she was in shock. Then she felt angry, desperate, and most of all helpless.

"There's really no telling how many people have seen it," said the woman, whom FLORIDA TODAY is not identifying to protect her privacy.

Posting consensually obtained nude photographs is not illegal, but a bill proposed to the state legislature by the Brevard County Sheriff's Office would make it a third-degree felony to do so without the person's written consent.

The Brevard woman didn't want to talk about how the photos were taken. BCSO Agent Dan Ogden said the woman - who was 18 at the time - posed willingly, though they were meant to be private. She believes the pictures were online a year before she found them.

Ogden, who is responsible for investigating Internet crimes against children, said he gets about one call a month regarding a person in a similar situation.

The Sheriff's Office doesn't track statistics on this issue because it isn't illegal, but such incidents aren't rare, Ogden said. Typically they involve teenagers or young adults. "I believe it's prevalent, a lot more than people would admit."

The proposed bill would prohibit "knowing use of a computer or other device to transmit or post any photograph or video of an individual which depicts nudity and contains specified information relating to the depicted individual without first obtaining the depicted person's written consent."

A person who violates the statute could be sentenced to up to five years.

Sheriff Wayne Ivey said this idea came about when they noticed a trend of these issues, but had no legal means to fight them.

"As life goes on, (victims) go in, they apply for a job or they're applying for college or they're in college and someone's Google searching them and then all these pictures are coming up," Ivey said. "It actually creates a long-term victimization for our victims and, in fact, there's a couple examples where the victims have been so just so overrun by it and so depressed over it they've actually committed suicide."

For example, Canadian teen Amanda Todd posted a video on YouTube explaining how she was bullied and blackmailed after allowing a person to get a nude photo of her - the video went viral after she killed herself.

Ivey felt the act warrants the penalty.

"Historically, we had bullying that went on in the playground," He said. "Today's bullying goes right into your home, it goes into your employer, it goes across the globe. Once something's put out there, even if it's put out there for 30 seconds, it is viral and it's unremovable."

Ivey added that part of the purpose of the bill is to raise awareness of this issue and particularly give caution to young people.

Chief Deputy Doug Waller said this bill is supported by the Brevard County Chief's Association, State Attorney Phil Archer, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Sheriff's Association.

Representative Tom Goodsen, who is working to get the bill to the floor of the state legislature, expressed optimism that the bill will become law this year.

"I think this is a good bill, I think it's a needed bill, so I don't see a lot of issues with it not passing," he said.

Goodsen said he wasn't trying to take a moral stand.

"I'm not trying to address the nude picture issue," Goodsen said. "I'm trying to address that if you're doing this to hurt a person, if you're doing this for malice, that's where you're breaking the law."

Attorney Jim Lake said the bill might presently be overly broad.

"I certainly understand the concern behind it, but I think this bill is written in a way that's unconstitutional," Lake said.

Lake, a Tampa lawyer who practices in the areas of media law, intellectual property and general litigation, said one issue is that the bill would apply even if the person in question isn't naked. He gave the example of a tourist standing next to the nude Renaissance sculpture "David," by Michaelangelo. Under the bill, posting that photo with the person's name would be a felony.

"The statute is much broader than I think is necessary to achieve the purpose behind it."

"There's always going to be people that come up with extreme examples and try to disparage the bill," State Attorney Phil Archer said. He pointed out that the proposed statute will go through a vetting process in the Legislature and the precise language may change.

"You don't have a right to put out naked photographs of somebody else on the Internet without their permission," Archer said, adding "This is a significant problem, especially for our youth."

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