The Florida legislature passed a new cyber sex crime bill that would make buying, selling, or trading stolen explicit images a felony. The decision comes after a senator was extorted by a local teenager who threatened to sell nude images stolen from her. Keep reading to learn more.
Democratic Senator Lauren Book was the victim of an extortion attempt by a Broward County teenager who threated to release nude images of Book to the public. According to the case, the teenager acquired the images and a video of the senator and her husband through online trading. The explicit materials were not only stolen but traded and sold online where the teenager acquired them.
Republican Representative Joe Harding, a sponsor of the bill said, “There’s a special kind of evil in the world, the kind of evil that believes it’s OK to ruin someone’s life by sharing an explicit image or video that they did not have permission to share.”
If signed by Governor DeSantis, this bill would make it a felony to purchase, sell, distribute, or trade stolen sexually explicit images from someone’s personal devices. It would also make distribution of altered explicit images a felony and strengthen child pornography, revenge porn, and bestiality laws.
Altered images, called deepfakes, are high resolution edited images or videos of a person performing an act that they never committed. For example, some deepfakes show a person saying something they never said or acting uncharacteristically. The issue with these forms of media is that they look and sound incredibly real and are convincing to those who do not research them further.
Political figures are the primary subject of deepfakes and have been since they began cropping up on the internet. For politicians like Sen. Book, deepfakes pose an extremely dangerous and destructive problem. If explicit deepfake videos of Book were released to the press, her career could be ruined.
The theft and sale of private, explicit media is a problem for countless women and men in the U.S. Revenge porn, a relatively new form of pornography involves selling or posting videos or nude pictures of one’s ex to a porn site as revenge for a breakup. Countless women have been exploited in this way and seek justice.
Supporters and Survivors
Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana was a victim of a similar crime when deepfake images were circulated on the internet. When Javellana reported the incident to the police, she was told that it was not a crime. Even though the images were fake, they looked real enough that they could convince people in her community that she participated in explicit acts.
She testified her support and told the committee that not only is she a former victim, but that hundreds of thousands of women have been exploited and exposed in the past but feared coming forward. For Javellana, Book’s story is encouraging, and they hope that this bill will become law.
“It definitely has brought healing to me, and I hope it can bring healing to many others…I hope they know they’re not alone and they don’t deserve what was done to them and they are free to go about their lives,” said Commissioner Javellana.
A Word of Caution
With every major advance, there are drawbacks. While millions of women suffer exploitation and harassment daily, there are a few cases where individuals are wrongly accused of exploiting them. For the same reason an ex may post a nude image to a porn site, a person may allege that their partner exposed them to get revenge.
Charges of revenge porn, distribution of sexually explicit images, and other forms of cyber sex crimes can destroy relationships, futures, and affect other legal proceedings. If a parent is accused of these crimes and are in the middle of a custody battle, they could lose custody and visitation rights.
It is cruel and unfair to victims to muddy the waters by making false accusations. Not only does it cheapen the hardships of actual victims, but it also destroys the lives of the accused.
If you have been accused of a cyber sex crime, contact the Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. today.