Who Can Be Sued for Revenge Porn By Mallika Singh on November 30, 2020

What are New York's Laws on Revenge Porn? New York's laws made Unlawful Disclosure of an intimate image unlawful and allow victims of revenge porn to sue those who posted it and the companies that profited. If you were a victim of revenge porn or had nude images posted on a website without your permission, you can sue. New York State has two laws that can be used to press both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit. These laws are New York City Administrative Code 10-180 and Penal Law 245.15. While the NYC Administrative Code, only applies in New York City, the Penal law covers all of New York State. Under both of these laws, you can have the person who published your nude pictures prosecuted and you can also sue them for money for your embarrassment and humiliation. 

NYC’s Administrative Code it is equivalent for law enforcement purposes to the New York Penal Law. What is NYC Administrative Code 10-180 and how does one run afoul of this law? At its base level,  NYC AC 10-180, Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image, is New York City’s “Revenge Porn” and “Sextortion” law with some caveats and twists. Simply, if you divulge, release, share, or transfer an intimate image of another person without said person’s consent you are potentially are guilty of a crime. If you accidently upload an image from your iPhone to Instagram, Facebook or some other form of social media or inadvertently download a video on your computer to an email, you have not in and of itself committed a criminal act exposing yourself to both misdemeanor and civil penalties. Instead, AC 10-180(b)(1) mandates that it is your objective to cause financial, physical or “substantial emotional harm” to the person whose image you released. Additionally, the recording, video, or any image – still or otherwise – must depict the subject of that image in such a way as to make him or her recognizable. You can satisfy this identifiable element of Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image through the picture itself or through the circumstance under which the same is presented and shared. New York Penal Law 245.15 also makes it illegal to post a nude image, including images of their intimate parts,  of another person without their consent for either economic gain or to cause embarassment.  New York's civil rights law, also allows anyone whose image was used for commercial gain online or in advertising to sue those who profited. 

Beyond the actual disclosure of the intimate image, it is no less criminal if you threaten your subject or target with Disclosure of an Intimate Image. Codified in New York City Administrative Code 10-180(b)(2), if your arrest or the civil suit against you alleges a mere threat, the law only requires that you imply that the person contained in the video is identifiable and the recipient.

 This year’s social isolation pushed many people to engage with partners online, over virtual communication platforms and potentially share intimate images or videos on webcams, apps or social media.

A side effect of the uptick in online usage is an increase in “revenge porn,” in which an individual captures or shares intimate images or videos of their partner without their consent. Multiple studies and reports found the practice disproportionately affects women, who make up 80% to 90% of revenge porn victims.

-Revenge porn is increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people interact with partners over virtual or online platforms.

New York law criminalizes revenge porn and makes it punishable with up to a year in jail.

Individuals can protect themselves by covering their faces and other identifying information in intimate imagery.

The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing have led to an increase in “revenge porn” and cyber sexual abuse, warned the state Office of the Attorney General.

The pandemic also led to an increase in online child exploitation, with tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children doubling from 6.3 million in the first half of 2019 to 12 million through June 2020.  New York passed a law last year that criminalized the publication and dissemination of revenge porn and established criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and civil damages for abusers. New Yorkers who have been victims of revenge porn are also able to seek a court order to remove these images online.

Additionally, in New York City, it is a criminal and civil offense to threaten to disclose an intimate image of another person with the intent to cause harm. The act is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 in criminal court and could result in financial compensation and a legal mandate that the perpetrator stop the abuse in civil court, according to Women’s Justice Now. Individuals should take precautions to protect themselves from revenge porn or other forms of cyber sexual abuse or harassment, including:

Excluding identifying details (either through cropping or blurring) in any intimate image or chat, such as:

 - Facial features or other identifying features like tattoos or birthmarks

- Identifying background information, such as items with your name or your employer’s name

Excluding identifying information from dating or mobile app profiles, like your e-mail address or handles for social media accounts.

Using dating or mobile apps with safety features, such as a warning when someone takes a screenshot of an image you shared with them and the ability to delete images from someone’s messages. Some apps and sites charge separate fees to use safety features. Consumers should continue to review which safety features are offered by a website or app over time, since they are often subject to change. New Yorkers who believe they are victims of unlawful surveillance or unlawful dissemination of an intimate image can report it by calling 911 or contacting a local police station or precinct. 

If you were the victim of revenge porn, call our New York lawyers who sue companies for revenge porn. 



The Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

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