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Bill would use sex offender registry to discourage posting of nude selfies

State House Bureau

January 12. 2018 12:23AM

CONCORD — In the wake of a report in the New Hampshire Sunday News about a website where nude selfies of young women are traded like baseball cards, the legislature is looking at tougher penalties to discourage such behavior.

A House committee on Wednesday debated a bill that would add people convicted of revenge porn, or any nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, to the sex offender registry.

Rep. Timothy Lang, R-Sanbornton, speaking in support of the bill, said the women whose nude or semi-nude pictures are disseminated online without their permission are made victims over and over again, as the images are distributed and redistributed.

“As a technologist, I can tell you that what you put on the internet is there forever,” he said. Lang spent 12 years in local law enforcement and works as IT director for the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion (formerly Meadowbrook).

Lang said on the first offense, law enforcement would classify the crime as level one, so that upon conviction the offender’s name would appear in a private registry, accessible only by law enforcement.

“It’s on the second offense, recidivism, that it becomes a public record,” he said. “The safeguards are there so we don’t get an innocent person put up there on the registry.”

The bill goes too far, according to libertarian and Free Keene member Ian Freeman.

“Let’s get people to take responsibility for their actions,” he testified. “If you don’t want your picture on the internet, maybe you shouldn’t allow it to be taken in the first place. Now if you never consented to having your picture taken, that’s a problem.”

Freeman testified that the circumstances by which such photos end up on the web are not necessarily criminal, even if the person in the photo later alleges as much.

“How are we to know if the person who was a victim didn’t consent to having their picture taken in the moment and consented to it being uploaded to a web site,” he said, “and later, after a breakup, that person says I never consented to this.”

“It’s tacky,” he said of the postings, “but I don’t think it’s something that deserves sex offense registry. You put people on these registries, and you start treating someone who shared pictures on the internet the same as a serial rapist.”

Lang pointed out that the registration would only be required after the accused has had the benefit of due process.

“The state still has to prosecute and prove it was not consensual in order to have this punishment apply,” he said “This would be a punishment on top of an offense that is already proven.”

The state has a law on the books passed in 2016 that makes “nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images” a felony. A conviction could result in 3½ to 7 years in state prison.

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