Valley News – NH bill would make sending unsolicited obscene photos a crime

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CONCORD — A reintroduced bill would criminalize the practice of sending explicit images of yourself to another person without the recipient’s consent, making the practice of “cyber-flashing” a crime.

Receiving unwanted photos of another person’s genitals, often referred to as slang “d— pics”, has become especially common for young women. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, more than half (53%) of young women between the ages of 18 and 29 say they have received explicit images that they did not ask for. Texas made sending unwanted sexual images a crime in 2019.

The bill would amend the Public Indecency, Indecent and Obscenity Act which already makes it a crime to expose one’s genitals or perform an act of “gross obscenity” by a way that “is likely to cause slight or alarm”, extending this same principle to digital communications. Essentially, flashing someone electronically would be treated the same as if someone exposed themselves in public.

HB 1388 would only apply to intimate images sent to people 16 or older, as it is already a crime to send similar content to children under 16.

Nashua State Rep. Allison Nutting-Wong, the bill’s lead sponsor, introduced legislation on the subject in 2020 and again in 2021, but both fell victim to the pandemic.

“This is a growing and pervasive problem that will only get worse over time unless you stop it now,” Nutting-Wong, a Democrat, told a public hearing. at the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Friday.

Nutting-Wong wrote in an email to To watch that she worked with the chair of the criminal justice and public safety committee, Rep. Daryl Abbas, to simplify the wording of the most recent bill to comply with current law. It is co-sponsored by two Republicans.

Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, testified Friday in support of HB 1388.

Schollett said the Coalition worked to develop language for the new bill.

She described the bill as solving a “loophole” in the law that makes it punishable to send unwanted sexual images to children under 16, but not teenagers or older adults.

“Receiving an unsolicited sexual image is disarming. It can be scary, it can be alarming, and it’s also often used by abusers as part of the grooming process,” Schollett said. Grooming refers to the process of slowly gaining a victim’s trust as a precursor to abuse.

“We think it’s appropriate that this is an offence, but on a lower level than it would be if the images were sent to a minor,” she said.

When state Rep. Nicole Klein-Knight asked how common the practice was in New Hampshire, Schollett said she didn’t have specific data, but that victims seeking help in crisis centers reported that abusers were increasingly using technology to stalk and harass them.

During the hearing, a few reps asked about the app, raising issues like during a bitter breakup, an ex-partner falsely accusing the other of sending formerly desired photos without consent, or a case where an image is accidentally sent to the wrong recipient.

Nutting-Wong said whether or not there was consent would be determined by police investigating the case and by the court, much like in sexual assault cases.

Merrimack County Assistant District Attorney Steven Endres said there were a number of factors he would consider when deciding whether to charge someone who claimed they accidentally sent an inappropriate photo to the wrong number.

“I personally would view this scenario in the same context as if I had an individual who said, ‘I was going to surprise my wife by jumping naked in front of her and I just happened to jump naked in front of the wrong person,'” Endres said. He said he would determine whether that claim was reasonable, including whether the two phone numbers were similar or whether the suspect had a habit of sending similar photos to unsuspecting people.

Several committee members also questioned whether the law would apply to scenarios such as “Zoom-bombing,” when an uninvited guest crashes a Zoom meeting, in this case to virtually flash attendees.

Nutting-Wong said she hopes the law will extend to live video meetings and that she has personal experience of this phenomenon. “My mom’s church group had, ‘Zoom flashed’ or whatever you call it, where these nice old ladies studying the Bible got hacked, and it was very disturbing,” he said. she stated.

Endres said he thinks the definition of image, which is not defined in existing law, would likely expand to cover conduct in live video streams like Zoom meetings.

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