Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer pauses during a news conference, Feb. 26, 2014, in Phoenix, Ariz.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona governor signs law banning ‘revenge porn’

Updated

Residents in Arizona can now be hit with felony charges if they post sexually explicit images or videos online without consent from the person depicted in the content.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the bill into law Wednesday, which penalizes people in the state for knowingly posting such intimate images – often referred to as “revenge porn” – without written permission, according to Reuters.

A rejected acquaintance or spouse might seek revenge by uploading the content to specifically designed websites, many of which require a victim’s name, address, links to social media profiles, and a removal fee, according to information published by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Opponents view it as a form of sexual assault and cyber-bullying.

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The action could land a perpetrator behind bars for a year and a half. The sentencing would be more severe if the individual depicted in the image is recognizable.

The Arizona legislature passed the bill unanimously last week. Previously, the state’s lawmakers had not enacted any laws related to the distribution of private, sexually explicit images.

Until recently, there was almost nothing a victim could do to have the content removed from the Internet. But California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law last October that made it a misdemeanor for any person to cause substantial emotional distress or humiliation to another individual using an electronic communication device.

At least 27 states and Washington, D.C. have introduced similar revenge porn bills this year. The practice is outlawed in some form in Alaska, California, Georgia, Idaho, New Jersey, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. A bill in Maryland is currently awaiting a signature from the governor.

Holly Jacobs founded End Revenge Porn – an advocacy group for victims – in August 2012, three years after she discovered explicit pictures and video of herself on the Internet. The Florida doctoral student found her full name, email address, job title, and other details about her personal life accompanied by the content, as she disclosed in a blog post. She attempted to bring cyber-stalking charges against her ex-boyfriend, whom she believes was responsible for posting the private material. But police dropped the case last October because they didn’t have enough authority within the law to collect evidence needed to prove her ex was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I’ve been pushing for these laws to be felony charges, otherwise it doesn’t seem like it gives the police the authority they need to pursue the cases all the way through,” she told msnbc. 

Non-consensual pornography affects both men and women, but the majority of victims are women and girls, according to End Revenge Porn. Additionally, as many as 80% of the victims take the offending photographs themselves, according to the group.

Members of the campaign created a petition and legislative proposal they hope to submit soon to ban revenge porn at the federal level. Thousands of victims across the globe have started to come forward to share their stories. But the majority of them remain silent because they fear more people will view their images and videos online, said Jacobs.

But, she added, she remains “thrilled” that Arizona was able to pass the law that places felony charges upon perpetrators.

“I never dreamed that we would be making as much progress as quickly as we did when we started the campaign,” she said. “I was just hoping to bring some attention to the issue.”

Arizona, Jan Brewer and Privacy

Arizona governor signs law banning 'revenge porn'

Updated