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Virginia General Assembly Expands Revenge Porn Law
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Virginia General Assembly Expands Revenge Porn Law

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill to expand revenge porn laws to include realistic fake images.

In 2014, Virginia outlawed the dissemination of explicit photos or videos without the consent of the person seen in the images. The images may have been originally shared in agreement between both parties, but in cases of revenge porn, get posted online by people seeking to embarrass the victim.

“They put them on a website with the intent to coerce, harass or maliciously hurt those folks,” said Del. Marcus B. Simon, D-Fairfax.

Simon introduced HB 2678 to protect victims of an emerging trend known as “deepfakes.” These realistically fabricated images and videos are becoming more common as modern software develops and social media creates easier access to images.

“These days you don’t even need to actually have photos like that — of the person, in your possession … all you have to have are pictures of their face,” Simon said. “You can use artificial intelligence to wrap that on the body.”

Roughly 10 million Americans have been threatened with or become victims of revenge porn. Women are twice as likely to be threatened by men, according to a 2016 study by the Data and Society Research Institute.

“The non-consensual dissemination of intimate photos or videos is not just humiliating for victims, but it can also carry significant emotional, psychological and even financial repercussions,” Simon said.

In a 2015 study from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 51 percent of victims of revenge porn indicated that they had considered committing suicide, and 39 percent said the crime affected their career and professional lives. Ninety percent of victims, according to the same group, are women.

Revenge porn laws now exist in 41 states and Washington, D.C., but according to Simon’s team, HB 2678 is “one of the first of its kind in the country.”

The bill adds language to existing law that includes protection for victims when their image is used in the creation, adaptation or modification of a video or picture. Violators of the law could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“Deepfakes are yet another malicious tool used to harass and terrorize individuals, who are most often women,” Simon said.

If signed by the governor, the “deepfake” cyber harassment bill will go into effect July 1.