Lawmakers consider stricter punishment for 'revenge porn' blackmail

Lawmakers consider stricter punishment for 'revenge porn' blackmail

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an age where technology has led to new forms of cyber bullying, Hawaii lawmakers are looking to strengthen the punishment for breaking privacy laws.

A bill moving through the state legislature aims to enhance the penalty for those who threaten to post pornographic images as blackmail.

Deemed "revenge porn," posting images of intimate nature after a relationship ends or without someone's consent has been outlawed in the islands since 2014.

Four years ago, Hawaii became the 10th state in the nation to outlaw distributing such material after former Governor Abercrombie signed a bill that made it a Class C Felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

This year, lawmakers are revisiting the issue with House Bill 2134.

Passing with almost unstoppable support from state leaders so far, the bill strengthens existing laws by adding a secondary criminal offense.

The bill would criminalize making threats to disseminate the material with the intent of harming a person's reputation. Lawmakers say it's a form of cyber bullying that could have serious impacts on victims.

"The consequences of posting private images on the internet with the intent to hurt the person in such publications is degrading, humiliating, career threatening and places that person at significant risk in terms of her (his) safety, reputation, physical and mental health," Rep. John Mizuno said. "At times this form of cyber bullying may cause the person to commit suicide."

The Office of the Public Defender opposes the bill, saying the current felony classification is appropriate, and reclassifying the felony to a Class B violation is too strict.

Earlier this week, the bill passed over from the House to the Senate, but has since stalled after senate amendments were made.

This story will be updated.

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