Bill would penalize those who send unsolicited sexual images

MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) – State lawmakers are working with a popular dating app to make it illegal to send someone unsolicited sexual photos.

The bipartisan bill introduced by State Senator Melissa Agard (D-Madison) would fine people up to $500 for texting or emailing unwanted sexual images to others. We often talk about “cyber flashing”, which means sending a nude photo of a part of the body to someone who has not asked for it.

The proposal went through a public hearing last month, but is unlikely to make it to a vote as lawmakers near the end of their two-year session. However, Agard said the bill is gaining momentum and could go to a vote next year.

“[The bill] It’s about letting people know it’s not OK,” Agard said. “Also, if you’re the recipient, you can do something about it.”

In the evolving digital age, more and more people are turning to online dating apps like Bumble. The company is working to pass legislation in several states and countries to hold its users and others responsible for sending unsolicited obscene images.

After surveying its users, Bumble said it discovered that one in three people had received a lude image, and 96% of them said it was unwanted.

Under the Wisconsin bill, adults who send unsolicited obscene or sexually explicit images could be fined $250 for the first offense and $500 for additional offenses. A written warning would be issued to under-18s for the first offense and would be penalized with a $250 fine for subsequent offenses.

Local law enforcement would be the ones to enforce the penalties, which Agard says is like filing a report if someone flashes you on the street.

Texas is currently the only state to have passed a law banning cyber-flashing.

“The biggest difference is that if you flash someone on the street, you could face jail time and fines, but if you flash someone digitally, it’s not illegal in any state outside of Texas,” said Payton Iheme, head of public policy for Bumble.

Iheme said several states are embracing their idea in hopes of holding more people accountable for their actions.

“Some people who do this just think they can get away with it and we need to shine a light on that to let people know that people are watching,” Iheme said. “There are people who may think it’s funny or may not think it hurts and it does.”

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