Wisconsin Legislators Taking on the Issue of Revenge Porn

Revenge Porn refers to the practice of ex-lovers or ex-spouses sending or posting compromising or romantic photos of their former significant other to a (or multiple) third party in order to humiliate that person. This practice has become alarmingly popular on social media networks and electronic communication.

This is something that family lawyers see all too often in cases. Ex-lovers or ex-spouses sparring with each other over social media, and crossing the line of exposing personal and private moments. Most often we see instances where the photographs were consensual photographs when taken, however when the parties break-up, they are used to harm someone. Obviously, this is without consent of the harmed party. While we vehemently advise clients against engaging in this practice for many reasons, there is no current law that deals with this issue.

Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to change that.

Under current law, anyone who possesses, reproduces or distributes an image of a nude person that was captured without that person’s consent faces a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of $10,000 in fines and three-and-a-half years in prison. This is seen in family law cases of, for example, stalking and restraining orders.

Under the “Revenge porn bill”, anyone who disseminates a nude picture without the subject’s consent, regardless of whether the subject granted consent to capture the image, would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail. This bill, if signed into law, would prohibit the specific instance discussed above.

On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, the Wisconsin Assembly passed this proposed law with ease. The state Senate will review the Revenge porn bill next, but not until after the new year.

Prohibited by law or not, we strongly discourage ex-lovers and ex-spouses from using private photos against each other, even if they were consensual photos when taken. Participating in revenge porn, or other harmful social media practices could effect custody and placement determinations by the court. Please see our previous blog for more on related social media issues in family law.