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Texas Lawmakers may Make Posting 'Revenge Porn' Online a Crime

A new Texas bill seeks to make sharing “revenge porn” a crime. Under the terms of the bill, proving innocence against this charge could be challenging.

As many San Antonio residents know, Internet sex crimes and other cyber crimes are taken seriously in Texas. Currently, lawmakers are considering a bill that would add the posting of "revenge porn" to the list of activities that constitute Internet sex crimes. Unfortunately, the terms of the proposed law may make it difficult for people facing charges to prove their innocence.

Sharing Without Consent

Under the bill, online content qualifies as revenge porn if it meets specific criteria. The content must feature explicit images of a person who did not consent to the content being shared. The subject must have reasonably expected the content to remain private at the time that it was created. Furthermore, the person who shared the content must have done so with the intention of causing harm to the subject.

Under the bill, people who post or knowingly promote this type of content could face civil and criminal penalties. The sharing or intentional promotion of revenge porn would be classified as a Class A misdemeanor. Convicted offenders could face fines of up to $4,000 and up to 12 months in jail.

Critics of the bill have cited concerns about free speech rights, according to KHOU News. Often, a person may legally own materials that qualify as revenge porn. Preventing a person from sharing these materials may violate his or her rights. Critics have also worried about the potential for wrongful charges. In many cases, the true intent of both parties may be unknown, and innocent people could end up facing inappropriate charges.

Issues With Intent

According to Forbes, some of the conditions that revenge porn laws rely on may be difficult to conclusively prove. For instance, a person can be prosecuted for sharing content with the intent to cause harm to the subject. In some cases, people may share explicit images with other motivations, such as making money. However, establishing these underlying motivations may be challenging. The following aspects of the proposed Texas law could also prove problematic:

  • Privacy expectations - in some cases, a "reasonable expectation" that images will remain private may not be shared between both parties.
  • Lack of consent - a person may initially consent to the sharing of images and then later deny doing so. Without a written record of consent, this may be difficult to prove.
  • Knowing promotion - people may share or otherwise promote revenge porn without understanding what they are sharing. Unlike certain materials, such as child pornography, the nature of revenge porn is not inherently obvious.

These issues are all potential defenses against revenge porn charges. However, incontrovertibly proving that any of these facts are true could be challenging.

Addressing Sex Crime Allegations

This proposed law serves as a reminder of the ambiguity inherent to many alleged sex crimes. In these situations, the knowledge and intent of both parties often matters but may be difficult to establish. This can make defending against allegations of sex crimes difficult. For this reason, the help of a criminal defense attorney may be invaluable to anyone facing sex crime charges.