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Hell Hath No Fury: A Proposed Bill in the Illinois Senate to Ban Cyberbullying of those Scorned

cyberbully, revenge porn, new Illinois law, Illinois legislation, social media, Illinois family lawyerIt goes without saying that divorce can be one of the most difficult and traumatic experiences for couples. Between the heartache of ending a relationship, to the stress and anxiety that comes from the division of property, and the process of untangling each individual’s life from the other, divorce can lead to acrimony, animosity, and the feeling of revenge. We hope that in these difficult times, each individual can attempt to display the requisite level of civility, and try to divorce in a way that maintains mutual respect and trust. But, we find that may not be the case.

With the rise of the use of social media and the Internet as a medium to vent our successes and our stresses, there comes with it the responsibility to determine what should remain private, and what can or may be public. For many, the lines become blurred, especially when anger, frustration, and emotion are controlling the keyboard.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, a new bill has been proposed and sponsored by State Senator Michael Hastings [D-Orlando Park] of Illinois, which would ban the practice of posting sexually explicit material on the Internet without the person’s permission. This practice, known as “revenge porn” or “involuntary porn,” is the newest development in cyberbullying and harassment in which someone posts nude photos or other explicit materials (along with identifying information such as name, address, telephone number, etc.) of their ex-significant other in a malicious attempt to get back at him or her.

The proposal, Senate Bill 2694, co-sponsored by State Senator Toi W. Hutchinson [D-40], would make the practice of revenge porn a Class 4 felony. New Jersey and California have both enacted laws to make this practice a criminal offense, and 13 other states have similar bills pending in their legislature. The proposal would not only make it a felony to post, place, or reproduce explicit images of someone without their consent online, but it would also make it a felony for a website to charge a fee to have the images taken down. The maximum penalty could be up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

 This proposed legislation would provide a mechanism by which victims may be able to attack websites who hide behind the First Amendment and extort their victims’ vulnerabilities and lack of bargaining power. Though there is legislation that covers the posting of explicit material of minors, there are no protections for adults. Currently, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Protection for Private Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material) falls short of a remedy for victims of this type of harassment, and does not let the victims go after the websites directly. The Huffington Post, which did a story on the Victims of ‘Revenge Porn’, wrote about the overall impact that this harassment had on the victims; the victims reported feeling the following:
  • Humiliation;
  • Concern for personal safety, as many of these explicit images have additional, personal information about the person exposed;
  • Fear for future livelihood and employment;
  • Fear of being watched or recorded in future intimate moments;
  • Body shame
  • Feeling of violation.
The passing of Senate Bill 2694 will force the scorned, angry, and resentful to take a moment to consider the type of picture or post that they are about to publish to the public audience. On the other side of the coin, this will hopefully provide many, who maybe are in the middle of an ugly breakup or divorce, the confidence that intimate moments shared between the couple in the past will not be vengefully spread across all social networks and media in the present.

If you are considering a divorce, one of our experienced Illinois divorce attorneys will be able to respond to your questions and concerns. Contact our law offices today for more information.

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