A bill designed to punish people who post 'revenge porn' on the Internet is written so loosely that it could interfere with the freedom of speech and of the press, Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, told a legislative committee on Monday.

She testified against Senate Bill 489, which would make it illegal to electronically disseminate "an intimate image" with "the intent to harass, annoy, alarm or terrorize another person."

The intent of the bill is good, Staub said, but it has several deficiencies that could lead to unintentional and unconstitutional consequences. She noted that the legislation would criminalize distribution of photos showing parts of the body that can legally be displayed in public, that it would allow prosecution even without an understanding or agreement that images would be kept private and that it would criminalize the conduct of third parties who distribute images without knowing there was a lack of consent.

"It’s not difficult to imagine situations in which people who voluntarily displayed nudity or partial nudity in public might later be alarmed or annoyed by distribution of the photographic evidence," Staub said in her written testimony. "Miley Cyrus, for example, might someday regret the deliberate exposure of certain parts of her anatomy in her televised 'twerking' video. But that doesn't mean anyone should be prosecuted for distributing the video or photographs, even if it is done to annoy or alarm Ms. Cyrus."

The bill would violate the principle, which has been consistently upheld in court, that third parties are protected from penalties for disseminating information if they got the information without engaging in any illegal actions themselves, Staub wrote. "To impose criminal penalties on uninvolved third parties sharing legally obtained images in this manner violates the core principles of freedom of speech and of the press."

In oral testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Staub suggested rewriting the entire bill. Legislation passed in other states, including California, has been formulated such a way as to mitigate constitutional concerns, she said.

The Judiciary Committee must decide by next week whether to abandon the bill, move it forward as written or amend it before voting it out of committee.

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