Cyber terror legislation moves closer to floor vote

Cybercrimes and Corporate Espionage
'When it comes to digital sex crime, the law simply has not caught up with technology.'

Legislation that would beef up Florida’s criminal penalties for stealing an individual’s sexually explicit pictures moved one step closer to passage in both chambers of the Legislature Tuesday.

The Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee OK’d a measure (SB 1798) from Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. The House companion bill (HB 1453) also earned approval from the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Rep. Joe Harding, a Williston Republican, is sponsoring that measure.

The Tuesday hearings mark the second of three committee stops for both the Senate and House bills.

Book, a Plantation Democrat, said she was victimized last year when intimate images were stolen from her and other sexually explicit “deepfake” images of Book were created. Book is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

“Because these acts are not illegal, or because they are currently classified as misdemeanors, it’s very, very, very difficult — nearly impossible — for victims to fight back,” Book said Tuesday.

“When it comes to digital sex crime, the law simply has not caught up with technology. Cyber trafficking is very real, it’s very scary and it’s happening to people across the state of Florida every single day.”

The legislation bars someone from willfully and maliciously promoting sexually explicit deepfake images without the victim’s consent. That act would be a third-degree felony.

The measure also makes it a third-degree felony when someone “knowingly and unlawfully obtains a sexually explicit image of an identifiable person with the intent to promote such image.”

Individuals would be able to sue for up to $10,000 in civil damages for those offenses as well. The measure would also rename the crime of “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse material,” as Book argued the word “pornography” implies consent, which children cannot give.

Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana, who also is a rape survivor, testified Tuesday in Tallahassee and described an incident where someone found deepfake nude images of her online.

“I work really hard, and so I don’t want anyone to distract from the work I do by publicly spreading these pictures that are fake,” Javellana said. “I don’t know why this happened, but it shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

Javellana also explained she was considering becoming a teacher, but dropped those plans because she worried students or parents could come across the faked images online.

Just before the Senate vote, Chair Ileana Garcia, a Miami Republican, focused much of her remarks on explaining that potential victims should be more careful about what they post online.

“In our journey for validation, we expose too much of ourselves sometimes,” Garcia said, before arguing individuals should think twice before posting provocative images of them or their children online.

“I think that the responsibility starts with us, with you, and the content that you put out there. And then the responsibility will continue with legislators like the ones on this committee today, and someone like Vice Chair Book who is championing this issue.”

In her closing remarks, Book explained further her situation, in an apparent response to Garcia.

“I didn’t put my images out there. I didn’t parade them on social media. They were stolen from me — my family — put out there, created, disseminated and are being sold. I’ll never get them back.”

The Senate bill will next move to the Senate Appropriations Committee, its final stop before full Senate consideration. The House bill’s last committee stop is with the House Judiciary Committee.

If approved, the measure will take effect on Oct. 1.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]

One comment

  • politics

    February 9, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    America is like me giving money to a addict blame yourselves it takes two to tango

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