New Bill Proposes Making ‘Cyberflashing’ Illegal

( – What used to just be a crime involving a person in a trenchcoat revealing themselves to unsuspecting victims in the real world, has made its way online — with little consequence. Cyberflashing is when someone sends an inappropriate image to another person on the internet without their consent, virtually harassing and abusing them. While the act is more prevalent on dating apps, it can also happen to just about any passerby. Recently, legislators introduced a bill to address the issue.

What Bill?

On March 20, Representatives Jennifer McClellan (D-VA) and Nathaniel Moran (R-TX) and two senators, Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Steve Daines (R-MT), introduced the Curbing Online Non-consensual Sexually Explicit Nudity Transfers (CONSENT) Act in Congress. McClellan explained that the bill was necessary to protect Americans due to the rise of cyberflashing incidents over social media and WiFi, through Bluetooth, and via messaging apps. She said the perpetrators even use AirDrop to share explicit images with people just going about their day. The lawmaker said artificial intelligence is making the situation worse, and something needs to be done. McClellan helped to pass similar legislation in her home state of Virginia.

In real life, a flasher would be arrested and prosecuted, but the same doesn’t hold true for the crime online. In fact, only a few states have laws addressing the issue, and there is currently nothing at the federal level.

Pew Research reported that over 50% of women 18 to 29 had been victims of this harassment — and that’s only the number as of 2017. Throughout the US, 32% of women and 30% of men have reported cyberflashing instances, but the number is suspected to be much higher.

Punishment and Reactions

The CONSENT Act gives victims the option to sue the alleged perpetrator for $500 in statutory damages or compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and a restraining order. The bill also puts safeguards in place for minors, allowing the child’s parents or legal guardian to sue on their behalf. The legislation does not mention jail time for the offender.

Moran said the legislation is needed to give “victims of online harassment … the legal recourses they need.” Schatz said everyone should be protected from “unwanted flashing” online and in person, and Daines called the act of cyberflashing “disgusting.”

The bipartisan bill has the support of Bumble, the National Organization of Women (NOW), Virginia NOW, the National District Attorneys Association, the Richmond YMCA, and the National Political Women’s Caucus.

Upon introduction, the act was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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