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Colorado lawmakers advance bill to crack down on 'revenge porn'

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A bill that would criminalize the posting of intimate images over the Internet as an act of humiliation - so-called "revenge porn" - passed its first test in the Colorado state legislature on Thursday, sailing unanimously through a key committee.

The bipartisan proposal passed through the state House Judiciary Committee by an 11-0 vote after members heard more than two hours of testimony.

The bill's Republican sponsor, Representative Amy Stephens, said after the hearing that victims of such activities would be vulnerable if an ex-partner decided to post embarrassing photos or videos online, making them readily accessible to the general public or an employer, for example.

"I'm pleased that Colorado is taking steps to protect victims of cyber crime," she said.

The issue has gained attention nationwide, mostly from publicized cases involving operators of web sites who will post humiliating explicit images, and then charge the victim money to have them removed.

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a first-of-its-kind state law criminalizing revenge porn, the distribution of private, explicit photos of other people on the Internet, usually by ex-lovers or spouses, to humiliate them.

Similar legislation has been since been introduced in more than two dozen states this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Under the Colorado measure, a person could face a maximum $10,000 fine if convicted of posting or otherwise disseminating images depicting another person's intimate parts if the actions are intended to cause "serious emotional distress."

The proposed law would make the offense a class-one misdemeanor under the Colorado criminal code.

The original version of the bill would have made the $10,000 fine mandatory, but Maureen Cain, a lobbyist for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, testified it was an excessive penalty for a misdemeanor.

"It just seems a little unbalanced," Cain said, adding that the Bar was not opposed to the bill in its entirety. The committee ultimately amended the bill to leave the amount of the fine up to a judge's discretion.

The measure now heads to the full House for debate, and if passed there will move to the state Senate.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernard Orr)

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