Congressman targets online posting of sex photos

Friday, October 20, 2000

A measure recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives
would punish individuals who post online pictures of others engaged in sexually
explicit conduct without their permission.

The Personal Pictures Protection Act of 2000, House Resolution 5462,
was introduced Oct. 12 by Rep. Mark Green, R.-Wis. The bill would punish anyone
who “with the intent to embarrass or cause emotional distress to another person
places on a computer photographs of the sexually explicit conduct of that
person so that such photographs are accessible on the Internet.” Offenders
could face a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

“This bill is simple and reasonable,” Green said. “If you post
sexually explicit pictures of someone on the Internet to embarrass them or
cause them distress, depending on the severity of the offense, you could be
fined or even serve time.

“These kinds of posts often do more than endanger the privacy of an
innocent person, they can endanger their personal safety as well,” Green said.
“That’s something that ought to be addressed.”

Law professor Robert Richards, founding director of the Pennsylvania
Center for the First Amendment, says the bill is flawed.

“H.R. 5462 appears to be a hastily drafted measure that would most
certainly face severe constitutional challenges,” he said. “If someone
misappropriates another person’s likeness for commercial gain, then the proper
remedy lies in invasion of privacy law.”

Richards also questioned the safety rationale of the measure: “How is
a person’s personal safety affected any differently if the photos are posted on
the Internet rather than in print? This is a specious argument.”

Paul McMasters, The Freedom Forum’s
First Amendment Ombudsman, agreed with Richards’ assessment. “This strikes me
as a solution in search of a problem. There already are laws on the books
addressing this issue,” he said. “We don’t need another one that specifically
targets the Internet as distinct from other media. We certainly don’t need
another law that is constitutionally suspect.”

The measure has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. No
hearing date has been set.

Tags: , , ,