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Oregon Senate votes unanimously to outlaw 'revenge porn'

SALEM — Oregon state senators voted unanimously Thursday to outlaw so-called revenge porn, when jilted ex-lovers distribute intimate photos that were shared consensually during a romantic relationship.

The measure, proposed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, would make first-time postings a misdemeanor and subsequent uploads a felony. The bill was tailored to only include photos that were posted without the victim's consent and with the intent to harm, shame or cause humiliation.

Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, said the bill wouldn't outlaw sharing intimate photos of significant others with friends outside the relationship.

"The bill accommodates Oregon's paramount value of free speech, while still giving protection to victims of this egregious invasion of privacy," Rosenblum said in a statement.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The narrow scope of the measure is intended to shield Oregon from being sued on constitutional grounds for violating free speech rights. In November, a federal judge put Arizona's law criminalizing revenge porn on hold after the American Civil Liberties Union sued. The group said the law was so broadly written that anyone sharing explicit photos without permission could be found guilty of a felony.

During a Senate committee hearing in early February, Department of Justice Legislative Director Aaron Knott said revenge porn has exploded with the growing popularity of social media. The images are often posted alongside the victim's personal and contact information, as well as with links to their social media profiles, he said.

"This has the dual effect of exposing the victim to anonymous criticism and harassment via all forms of digital communication, as well as guaranteeing that an Internet search of that person made by any employer, landlord, family member or friend would likely reveal the explicit images," Knott said.

Bitter exes aren't the only ones targeted by the measure.

Christina Gordon, a legislative aide in Sen. Mark Hass' office, said at the hearing a former supervisor managed to steal about 100 intimate pictures of past and present female employees, including Gordon. The supervisor was fired, she said, but not before he shared the photos.

"I went to the police and requested an investigation, but there was nothing they could do, for what the supervisor had done is not a crime in Oregon. It felt like a crime," Gordon said. "It has been nearly two years since this took place, and it still affects me. It has affected me in nearly every area of my life," she added.

If the bill passes and Gov. Kate Brown signs it, Oregon will become the 16th state to outlaw revenge porn.