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Revenge porn is an increasingly common problem that can cause severe and often irreversible harm to the victim, an Omaha senator told the Legislature's Judiciary Committee on Friday.  

Sen. Wendy DeBoer has chosen to address the problem with a bill that would create the opportunity for a civil lawsuit for someone who is harmed by a person disclosing sexually explicit images without her or his consent. 

DeBoer told the committee some people share the sexually explicit images for profit or as a way to control, extort, punish or harm a person's reputation or discourage reporting of domestic abuse or sexual assault. 

"The disclosures are happening with increasing frequency and, due to the reach of social media, these images can be rapidly available to anyone with internet access," DeBoer said. 

Sharing intimate photos with strangers, family, co-workers and friends can cause the victim economic damage, emotional distress or problems in their professional or personal lives, she said. Often, it's an interstate problem when images are shared electronically. 

So DeBoer chose to use a narrowly written uniform state law, the Uniform Civil Remedies for Unauthorized Disclosure of Intimate Images Act, to address the problem.

It requires the image be intimate and that the plaintiff be identifiable and harm caused by the disclosure. And the image must have been expected to have been private or obtained under false pretenses. 

An amendment would offer some protection to providers or users of a computer service. 

The victim could be allowed to file using a pseudonym. 

John Lindsay, on behalf of the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys, testified in support of the bill, saying it provides clarity in a new and still developing area. 

"This provides, we believe, a road map to helping folks protect themselves against something we couldn't have even fathomed, at least, when I was in law school," he said. 

One person — Gregory Lauby — opposed the bill at the hearing, saying it's possible the bill, in its present form, could put at risk some future art. 

"I would just ask you to very carefully review and see if you could narrow it down to exactly the evil that you're trying to prevent here, rather than have it possibly be interpreted to apply to something that we really don't need to eradicate, that would still constitute First Amendment speech," Lauby said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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