Kilmartin, Raimondo still at odds over ‘revenge porn’ as lawmakers consider bills

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Senate lawmakers are once again discussing legislation that’s put Attorney General Peter Kilmartin at odds with Gov. Gina Raimondo.

A bill filed by Kilmartin earlier this year aims to crack down on “revenge porn” and “sextortion.” It would criminalize the posting of sexually explicit photos or videos online without the subject’s consent. This is often done by jilted exes or hackers in an effort to humiliate or exploit the person depicted.

Both the House and Senate passed Kilmartin’s bill last year, but it was nixed by Raimondo in the days that followed. It was the first veto she issued as governor, done so on free speech grounds.

Raimondo’s administration has filed a separate bill in hopes of overcoming any First Amendment concerns, saying the legislation needs to include language clarifying that the media is being posted online with malicious intent.

Kilmartin’s office disagrees, saying revenge porn has nothing to do with freedom of speech and doesn’t deserve any First Amendment protections. It called Raimondo’s bill a “watered-down version” of Kilmartin’s bill in a news release Tuesday, saying hers creates loopholes for defendants and makes it nearly impossible to effectively prosecute.

The House approved Kilmartin’s bill by a 72-2 vote back in March.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to debate the language of both bills. Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, the bill’s sponsor and chairwoman of the committee, said it’s time to get something done because revenge porn can have serious effects.

“They can significantly impact people’s lives,” she said. “They can ruin their lives. They can affect job prospects and school prospects. They can affect future relationships. All kinds of things.”

“In this new computer age that we have,” she continued, “I think it’s very important that we keep up with the times and make sure we can continue to protect our citizens.”

Rhode Island continues to be an outlier on this issue, according to Kilmartin’s office, being one of only fourteen states that doesn’t have a law addressing revenge porn.

Following the hearing on Tuesday, both Kilmartin’s and Raimondo’s bills will be held for further study.