Under the Dome

Revenge porn, online impersonation could be illegal under NC House bills

An N.C. House committee voted unanimously Wednesday to ban “revenge porn” and online impersonation.

The House Judiciary IV Committee heard three privacy-related bills sponsored by Rep. Rob Bryan, a Charlotte Republican.

House Bill 792 would make it a felony to distribute nude or sexual photos obtained “within the context of a personal relationship.” That targets the growing trend of “revenge porn,” in which someone posts nude photos online after a romantic relationship ends.

“There’s actually a website for it,” Bryan said. “What this bill is doing is making that a crime.”

Legislators were hesitant to discuss the problem in detail. “For all our sakes, I won’t read through the definition language,” Bryan said. “You’ll see it’s a big step in the right direction for protecting folks.”

Alex Miller of the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence said his group supports the bill but doesn’t think it goes far enough. He pointed out that it wouldn’t penalize a third party who distributes nude or sexual photos.

Another Bryan proposal, House Bill 794, would create a new felony targeting those who impersonate others online. That would mean anyone who assumes someone else’s identity online “for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding another person.”

No one on the committee mentioned the parody social media accounts that impersonate legislators – those likely wouldn’t be violations under the bill unless someone considers them intimidating.

The bill would allow both the person being impersonated and anyone who’s harmed by the fake to sue for damages.

“It’s trying to cover both parties that might get harmed from the online taking of your impersonation,” Bryan said.

The committee also approved a third bill from Bryan that would expand the state’s secret peeping laws. Current law only applies when the act takes place for sexual gratification – Bryan wants to make it illegal when the goal is “harming, intimidating or defrauding.”

All three bills could get a vote in the full House as soon as this afternoon.