“We should be able to charge them with some sort of crime that meets the level of their depravity.”
A bill introduced last week to the New York City Council aims to outlaw harassment in the form of uninvited dick pics.
The bill, presented by council Joseph Borelli and and Donovan Richards, seeks to penalize the use of applications like AirDrop, which lets users share files with through Bluetooth, to bombard strangers with “unsolicited disclosures of intimate images” of their “genitals, pubic area or anus.” Wired magazine dubbed such culprits as “cyber flashers.”
“Just like if you get on the train and flash someone, you’ll be arrested,” Richards told Wired. “You should be held to the same standard, and the law should be applied to you equally.”
The punishment for such infractions — if acted with “intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” — could be up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine.
Tech blogger Sarah Edwards tested the phenomenon in question and concluded that tracing AirDroppers would be “very difficult.” The savvier offenders, Edwards speculated, could “imitate” the digital footprints of another user, thus sending the police on the wrong trail.
More broadly, Wired reporter Issie Lapowsky noted that the bill bill could “have a ripple effect” on other social platforms, from Facebook to Tinder “where these types of unsolicited images are rampant.”
And then there’s the question of privacy… “With the law on its side, NYPD could issue subpoenas and other court orders that force these platforms to hand over information about the account holders, just as they do for other crimes and national security issues,” Edwards wrote.
Beyond that, the law states that to be prosecutable, the “cyber flasher” must have acted from an intent to harass, as opposed to out of, say, a stab at irreverence. Should cops and judges be trusted to tell the difference between malevolent harassment and a hookup gone awry?
For Borelli, a Republican, these concerns are understandable but unpersuasive. His worry is that law enforcers at the moment lack the power to respond to the growing number of complaints filed against dick-pic harassers.”
In cases where we know who the harasser is,” he told Wired, “we should be able to charge them with some sort of crime that meets the level of their depravity.”