Technology is capable of changing far more quickly than the law. However, eventually, laws do catch up. Cyberharassment laws are now common across the country. Harassment, including threats, via email, social media and elsewhere on the internet has become all too common.
Sexual cyberharassment is considered a category all its own. Under Florida law, it includes “disseminating through electronic means…a sexually explicit image of a person that contains or conveys the personal identification information of the depicted person without the depicted person’s consent, contrary to the depicted person’s reasonable expectation that the image would remain private… with the intent of causing substantial emotional distress to the depicted person.” A ”sexually explicit image” is defined as one depicting nudity or someone “engaging in sexual conduct.”
The potential criminal and civil consequences
When this is done maliciously, a common term for it is “revenge porn” because it’s often used by people to get back at former romantic partners by sharing explicit photos or videos to embarrass them and harm their reputation. “Non-consensual pornography” is another common term.
Last year, Florida law was strengthened
When someone “willfully and maliciously sexually cyberharasses another person,” that’s considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A subsequent conviction can result in a felony charge. In addition to facing criminal charges, a person accused of sexual cyberharassment can also face civil litigation from the person depicted in the images.
Earlier this year, the law was strengthened to make it a crime to steal sexually explicit images from someone else’s device to distribute them or to gain some benefit from them – for example, to sell them to a media outlet.
It also addresses the issue of “deep fakes,” where someone’s face is placed on another person’s body. Finally, it increases the damages people can seek in civil lawsuits to $10,000.
It’s wise never to share an intimate photo or video of someone else with anyone – no matter how much you trust them to delete it. Once you’ve shared it, you’ve lost control and any misuse of it can be traced back to you. Further, if your phone or computer is left unsecured or even if it’s hacked, your intimate photos can go anywhere and – again – be traced back to you.
Whatever the situation, if you’re facing charges involving sexual cyberharassment, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance to help protect your rights and your future.