A bill intended to criminalize the theft of sexually explicit pictures won strong backing Tuesday from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
SB 1798 was pushed through the committee by Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation, who in the past year was the victim of what she described as a “next frontier of intimate terror.” The measure also criminalizes the cyber trafficking of stolen or altered images to create sexually explicit terror.
“When it comes to digital sex crimes, the law simply has not caught up with the technology,” Book told the committee Tuesday. “Unfortunately, this is something I have come to understand intimately.”
And then she told her story.
“After dropping my two young children off at school, I found myself in a waking nightmare: receiving messages and images on my phone from an unknown number in an effort to intimidate, terrorize and extort me and my family,” Book said. “Despite the incredible work of (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) agents, a successful sting operation which resulted in one arrest, and an ongoing investigation, I became a victim of digital hacking, cyber stalking, image-based sexual abuse and the creation and sale of something called ‘deepfakes,’ which will never, ever go away.
“It’s the next frontier of intimate terror. And, under our state’s current legal framework, it’s very difficult to hold the predatory individuals behind those bad actions accountable,” Book said.
Book then presented SB 1798, which would:
— Prohibit someone from knowingly, willfully and maliciously disseminating “deepfake” sexually explicit images without the victim’s consent, making it a third-degree felony.
— Establish new standards for our state’s “revenge porn” statute by criminalizing the theft of sexually explicit images off another person’s phone or digital device with the intent to distribute or benefit from them in some way.
— Increase existing civil damages where victims will now be entitled to seek up to $10,000 in damages against the individual who has willfully and knowingly chosen to inflict this kind of intimate terror.
— Rename the crime of “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse material,” as Book pointed out that the word “pornography” implies there was some sort of consent, which children cannot give.
The committee approved SB 1798 with little comment.
“I am not alone. This is happening to people across the state of Florida and all over the world, every single day. Teachers. Social workers. Nurses. Moms. Teenagers,” Book said. “Images are being stolen from digital devices. Deep fakes are growing exponentially online.”
SB 1798’s next stop is the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.
The House counterpart is HB 1453, from Republican Rep. Joe Harding of Williston.