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Virginia legislators reintroduce bill to penalize ‘cyber flashing’

A bipartisan group of women legislators are again pushing for a state law against unwanted nude...
A bipartisan group of women legislators are again pushing for a state law against unwanted nude images sent by text and over computer screens.(KEYC, File)
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 1:42 PM EST
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A bipartisan group of women legislators are again pushing for a state law against unwanted nude images sent by text and over computer screens.

In a Thursday news conference, Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, D-Virginia Beach, announced she was bringing back a bill that would penalize sexually explicit pictures sent to anyone without their request or consent. Like last session, she said the legislation was inspired by a growing problem in the world of real estate — agents, whose cell phone numbers are typically publicized, randomly receiving “indecent” photos on the job.

“This should be a bipartisan effort,” she said. But while the legislation unanimously passed the House of Delegates, it died abruptly last year in a Senate committee, where some male legislators raised concerns about First Amendment limitations or potential unintended consequences.

“I could see a situation where boyfriends and girlfriends are trading pictures of themselves,” said Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “And the relationship goes bad. And then a week or two or three later somebody’s swearing out a warrant saying ‘hey he keeps sending me this’ or ‘she keeps sending me that.’ And now there’s misdemeanor charges and lawyers involved.”

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said the new iteration of the bill addresses many of those worries. Unlike last year, she’s sponsoring an identical bill in the Senate, giving her the chance to address concerns with colleagues before it goes for a vote. Del. Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, also supports the legislation.

The bill was redrafted with help from Bumble, an online dating application that aims to “challenge heterosexual dating norms” by requiring women to make the first move in opposite-sex matches. The company modeled the Virginia bill after similar legislation it supported in Texas, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

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The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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