New York Attorney General issues guidance for sending revealing images during pandemic


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James, cautioned New Yorkers who are sending private images of their bodies during the pandemic. She said that screenshots or recordings can be taken of those intimate images and shared without your consent—a criminal act known as “revenge porn.”

“Revenge porn is a vicious form of humiliation and control that disproportionately affects women,” said Attorney General James. “As New Yorkers continue to social distance during the coronavirus pandemic, we urge all who are sharing intimate and private pictures to follow these tips to protect themselves. We also warn anyone thinking of sharing revenge porn and exploiting their partners to think twice, as we will work with local law enforcement to prosecute all individuals engaging in the illegal act to the fullest extent of the law.”

Socially distanced partners can become threatening figures who essentially blackmail victims, forcing demands upon them. Revenge porn has been widespread in the internet age, since long before the pandemic, but James points to recent reports suggesting a dramatic rise in recent months. Since March, activity on dating sites has increased, and video chat apps have reported 70% growth across their platforms.

Attorney General James released tips to minimize the risks of falling victim to revenge porn:

  • Do not include identifying details in any intimate image or chat
    • Exclude your face and any identifying features, such as a unique tattoo or birthmark
    • Blur or crop your face, or keep it out of frame
    • Exclude identifiable information in your image’s background, including paperwork with names or company logos
    • Exclude identifiable information from your profile, such as your email address or the handles to different social media accounts
    • Consider a separate email or accounts to use with dating profiles
  • Use dating apps or websites that have safety features like
    • Notifications that a recipient has taken a screenshot
    • An “unsend” option
    • Deleting images or chats from a recipient’s messages

Revenge porn is illegal in New York. Call 911 or contact local police if you believe you’ve been a victim. You can also reach out to an organization that helps victims of revenge porn, which is a kind of domestic violence.

“As many of us have learned in 2020, our computers and mobile devices have become essential tools for navigating both on and offline relationships,” said Stella K. Hirsch, a staff attorney at New York City-based support program Safe Horizon. “While we recognize the significance of establishing and sustaining connections through digital communications at the Domestic Violence Law Project, we also understand that harms threatened or perpetrated in online spaces have a real and lasting impact on survivors. The exponential rise we have seen in revenge porn and other forms of online harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic is saddening and have increased demand for our services.”

In the Capital Region, Unity House Domestic Violence Services has a 24-hour hotline for abuse victims and survivors: (518) 272-2370.

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