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Our view: Good progress so far to limit revenge porn

Herald editorial board

The cases are starting to mount up, and in this case, that's good news. The crime is casually called "revenge porn," and cases against perpetrators are helping spread awareness of this despicable violation of privacy.

One of the more recent cases comes from Minnesota, where Thomas Evans Conway of Minneapolis was charged with one count of non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images.

Generally speaking, the crime is committed after a relationship ends, when one party uses the internet to share nude or otherwise explicit photos that were exchanged while still dating or married. In the case of Conway, the victim didn't realize the photos were posted until she began receiving numerous "friend" requests from strangers. Upon investigating, the woman realized her former boyfriend — Conway — had allegedly posted the photos.

And such is crime in the 21st century.

Lest the unsympathetic feel it's a just punishment for the young woman who allowed the photos to be taken in the first place, know that this is far from a unique phenomenon. Statistics from the American Psychological Association show that more than 80 percent of adults surveyed in 2015 admitted to sharing sexually explicit texts at least once in the year prior.

In today's era of smartphones, it's a deeper problem than just hoping people stop sending these photos in the first place.

Meanwhile, it can have a devastating effect on victims. There are instances all over the United States and Canada of victims committing suicide after their nude photos were posted online without their consent.

Canada has taken an admirably firm stance. In 2015, it created a federal law to crack down on revenge porn and cyberbullying. Called the "Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act," it was born after two teenagers committed suicide in the wake of porn-related bullying.

It's getting better in the United States, where at least 38 states now have revenge porn laws on the books.

In Minnesota, non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images is a misdemeanor; it's a felony if it causes financial loss, intent to profit, intent to harass or is posted to pornography sites.

In North Dakota, distribution of intimate images without or against consent is a Class A misdemeanor. Prior to 2015, it was not a crime to distribute such images if a person obtained them consensually during a relationship, but that loophole is now thankfully closed. Violation of the law is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

This is good progress. We prefer Canada's approach, but we're glad to see states realizing the impact this crime has on lives. Now, it's important for all states to get on board and come to the same realization.

It's best to get past the notion that humans will eventually realize the perils of sending explicit photographs via cellphones. They won't.

What must happen, then, is that laws must be made to protect them from embarrassment and harm — and in some cases, suicide — when their happy relationships turn sour and a once-trusted partner seeks revenge online.

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