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Texas Senate OKs "Revenge Porn" Bill

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The Texas Senate did some actual good on Tuesday, passing a bill that would make Texas the 17th state to criminalize so-called "revenge porn." More important, the bill would make Texas one of fewer than five states to allow civil penalties for the posting of nude or sexually explicit images without the subject's consent. Victims would be able to sue both the website that hosts the images and the person who provided them.

"I think it's a very important piece of legislation for the women of Texas and for the young girls of Texas," Senator Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston, said.

Each of the eight women serving in Texas' Senate chamber, including Huffman and Sylvia Garcia, the Houston Democrat who wrote the bill, signed on to the legislation as co-authors. Garcia said that although revenge porn can happen to anyone, its targets are most often women.

"This is an issue for all of us, but more often than not, the victim is a woman."

If the bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, becomes law, website owners who are sued by revenge porn victims will be subject to restraining orders that would bar their site from continuing to display the images. Victims would also be able to seek additional financial damages.

Up to now, law enforcement in Texas has been forced to get creative if it wished to prosecute someone for posting porn of someone without her consent. A law against online impersonation could be used, for instance, if the person posting the explicit images did so with a fake social media account. In 2014, a Fort Worth man pleaded guilty to improper visual recording and breach of computer security in a case that stemmed from his emailing videos of himself and an ex-girlfriend having sex. He received five years probation.

The new law would make posting revenge porn a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $4,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

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