Panel wants 'revenge porn' laws strengthened in Minnesota

Lawmakers, community experts, local officials, and activists held their first meeting on Thursday to address Minnesota's lack of protections for "revenge porn" victims, and to find constitutional legal protections for them.

The group was formed by State Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), who is also a criminal prosecutor in the St. Paul City Attorney's office. Lesch said he created the task force because he's frustrated revenge porn in Minnesota is not a crime.

"This is a reprehensible crime which has far reaching impact on its victims and their loved ones," Lesch said in May. "There are over 15 states which successfully outlaw such gruesome behavior, and I believe we have the legal talent in Minnesota to accomplish the same."

The MN End Revenge Porn Working Group met at the Capitol to discuss a way forward after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that current statute outlawing revenge porn crimes was unconstitutional in May.

"If we are to be successful, we must include City Attorneys, who inevitably will handle the vast majority of these types of cases, and the voices of victims, but also free speech advocates who believe any law could implicate their own legitimate work," Lesch said.

While everyone at the meeting wanted some type of law to fight revenge porn, there are questions about what it will cover and how it will be applied. For example, if a boyfriend takes a snapshot of his girlfriend lying on the beach in a bikini but doesn't recognize a nipple is exposed and uploads it on Facebook, is that a crime?

Or, regardless of intent, is the damage already done when an image or video is viewed by millions of strangers? Should that be enough to prosecute?

"The current draft is about making it a felony, so we want to make sure that law is carefully drawn and meets first amendement requirements," Lesch said.

What is revenge porn?

Revenge porn is sexually explicit media that is distributed without the consent of those involved -- It is often posted with the intention of humiliating or harassing someone. Legislation has been passed in various countries and jurisdictions to criminalize this practice as well as to define it.


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