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Baker Administration Files Bill To Combat 'Revenge Porn'

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Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday filed legislation to close a loophole around the publishing of sexually explicit photos or video of someone for revenge.

The bill would make so-called "revenge porn" — the sharing of sexually explicit photos or video of someone for purposes of revenge or embarrassment, even if they consented to the photos being taken — a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Massachusetts is one of just 14 states with no such statute in place.

The new penalty however would largely only affect adults. Under the proposal, most minors who share sexually explicit photos of their peers would be diverted into an education program about privacy and safe internet use.

Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley praised the bill's sensitivity to mistakes made by people too young to know better.

"We hear a lot about how the juvenile or the adolescent brain isn't fully developed," Conley said after the bill was unveiled Tuesday. "Trying to figure out a way to educate, to prevent, to intervene, rather than be heavily punitive."

Under current law, minors who share such content with their friends can be prosecuted for the distribution of child pornography — a felony. In juvenile cases that do lead to prosecution, the new law would give district attorneys more discretion as whether to bring felony or misdemeanor charges.

If the law is passed it would also require schools to educate students about the "risks and harmful effects of the creation, possession, and distribution of sexually explicit visual depictions of minors as they relate to cyber-bullying."

With reporting by WBUR's Max Larkin

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