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N.Y. Legislation Would Make ‘Cyberflashing’ Illegal

A Mid-Hudson Valley state senator is pushing legislation in New York that would make cyberflashing — the online sharing of unsolicited intimate images — illegal, drawing support from the online dating app Bumble.

New York State Assembly Chamber
(TNS) — A Mid-Hudson Valley state senator is pushing legislation that would make cyberflashing — the online sharing of unsolicited intimate images — illegal.

State Sen. James Skoufis, D- Cornwall, who represents the 39th Senate District, said that he and other lawmakers are urging support for cyberflashing legislation.

Skoufis' office said the measure is drawing support from the online dating app Bumble as well as the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus.

The legislation would make the unsolicited disclosure of an intimate image an unlawful act, classified as a violation. The legislation would also require "sexual harassment prevention training for individuals convicted of such offense."

"A 2022 survey by Bumble, the women-first dating and social networking app, found that nearly half of all respondents (46%) have received unsolicited, obscene images in their lifetime, and almost 1 in 3 (29%) had received them within the past month," a press release about the measure said. "These images are frequently conveyed anonymously between mobile phones via text or digital file sharing services, and often on mass transit or in large public settings — violating the recipient's personal space and undermining their sense of safety."

The release said that for recipients who have a history of sexual trauma, such a violation can trigger intense emotional distress.

Skoufis said that the act of cyber-flashing draws clear parallels with indecent exposure, which is already on the books as a punishable offense in New York.

"State law simply hasn't kept up with new digital forms of harassment and exposure, and we must do better," Skoufis said. "...This kind of invasive and abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated in New York, and I urge my colleagues to bring this key piece of legislation to a vote before session's end."

"Since Bumble's establishment in 2014, we have been committed to empowering kind and respectful relationships for everyone, both on and offline," said Payton Iheme, Bumble's Head of public policy for the Americas, in a statement. "With the passage of (the law), New York would become the third state to take a stand against cyberflashing, bringing our standards for conduct in the digital world closer to those upheld in the real world."

Others felt similarly.

"Texting and emailing unsolicited intimate images continues to increase among people of all ages," said Donna Lent, president of the National Women's Political Caucus. "Although research shows that a high percentage of young women are receiving unwanted explicit images, this can happen to anyone who has a cell phone that is listed publicly. I have had the same cell phone number for at least 35 years — my phone number is everywhere. This is a problem for women in all walks of life as it can happen anywhere, airports and Disney World included."

© 2022 Daily Freeman, Kingston, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.