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Lawmakers weigh 'revenge porn' bills

Lawmakers considered two competing bills Tuesday that would make Maryland among a handful of states to consider "revenge porn" a crime.

Vengefully posting naked pictures of an ex-lover online would carry jail time under the proposals weighed Tuesday, two of at least three bills filed this year to target a phenomenon that has grown with websites devoted to so-called revenge porn.

Advocate Annmarie Chiarini, herself a victim of having compromising pictures posted by a jilted ex online, urged the House Judiciary Committee Thursday to pass tougher penalties than the state's current cyber bulling and harassment laws.

Chiarini, a single mother from Towson, said her job at a community college was threatened and she contemplated suicide after nude photos of herself were posted online.

While several websites that collect and publish such photos have been subjected to lawsuits, advocates say that such behavior is not a crime in most states and victims must file a civil suit to get the images taken down.

Some revenge porn websites earn cash by charging women $250 to have their images removed.

A representative from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland told lawmakers that the broadly written proposals could infringe on first amendment rights and inadvertently hold people who had no malicious intent responsible for the pictures.

Dels. Luiz Simmons of Montgomery and Jon Cardin of Baltimore County each presented their proposal for punishing people who deliberately post illicit pictures in order to hurt someone else. Simmons' bill calls for a misdemeanor that carries a 1-year jail term and a $500 fine.  Cardin's proposal would make it a felony with a five-year jail term and a $25,000 fine.

And yet another proposal, which will be heard in February, by Del. Bill Frick of Montgomery County would call for a misdemeanor that came with a 6-month jail term and a $1,000 fine.

California and New Jersey are the only two states with specific laws banning revenge porn, although at least two others - Wisconsin and New York - are also considering laws against revenge porn.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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