It’s common knowledge that social media and technologies in general are progressing so rapidly that our elected representatives are oftentimes left tangled in the legal system, unable to quickly and efficiently enact legislation to combat contemporary areas of unlawfulness that arise from these new advances. Lawmakers have historically relied on the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) to govern the general populace as they take the time to familiarize themselves with the cutting-edge technological advances and decide on a course of action. Unfortunately, the golden rule often fails completely, and blatant disrespect for our fellow human beings, coupled with an almost anarchistic viewpoint, tends to prevail.
There are numerous examples that show the legal system is so obviously lagging behind technological innovation (and our subsequent interpretation of how that technology should be put to use), but one of the more interesting cases I stumbled upon has to do with what has been dubbed a “sexting” bill. This bill was brought before the state assembly on Tuesday after gaining widespread support during the month of October. The sexting bill, formally known as the Individual Privacy Protection Act, “seeks to criminalize the non-consensual distribution of explicit images and videos across the World Wide Web.” So basically, if one was to take a nude or partially nude selfie and send it to someone, the recipient of that image would not be able to publicize it without serious repercussions (i.e., a huge fine). Similarly, any individual that takes an explicit picture of someone else would, likewise, not be able to publicize it without serious repercussions (i.e., a huge fine).
As we are all well aware, sexting is not a new fad; in fact, it became widely popular with teens in 2008. The creation and now widespread use of Snapchat, a photo messaging application that has gained much acclaim because of its exploitation of this generation’s narcissistic tendencies, has really only made this process easier. According to research by Heather Hudson, one-third of college students (ages 18 to 24) have been involved in a form of nude sexting.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, these instances of sexting have not always yielded good (the definition of this word in this context is open to interpretation) results. And this leads us back to the sexting bill. Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, has definitely acknowledged the negative effects, and his legislation would tackle the problem.
For example, there are a number of cases in which the recipients of pictorial sexts have, as I said above, posted the images online without the sender’s consent, which is not only an invasion of privacy, but has led some individuals to respond by committing suicide in the most severe cases. Other results include discrimination at work and humiliation, and victims have even changed their names and moved to escape the attention. Spiros argues that these individuals deserve the full protection of the law, which he will gladly deliver to them.
I think collectively we can all do our part as intelligent and respectful adults to ensure that members of our community don’t feel the negative effects of sexting. But there is also much that can be done on an individual basis. Aside from completely getting rid of a Snapchat app or downgrading a smartphone for a common flip phone that doesn’t have a camera, people can start by sexting only those they trust.
Also, keep in mind that “over half (61%) of those who did send a naked picture or video of themselves had been pressured more than once by someone else,” so one must learn to be assertive and say, “No, I refuse to send you a picture of that private region of my body.” Overall, with a lot of common sense and a little courage, we can all be safe sexters.
Briana Reilly (reillybrianar