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State Representative Files Legislation To Criminalize Digital Sexual Harassment

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) - State Representative Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) filed legislation that would criminalize the increasingly prevalent incidences of lewd photos being sent to unwilling recipients via text message, social media, and online dating applications – a growing problem in the digital communication era.

House Bill 2789 makes the electronic transmission of sexually-explicit visual material without consent a Class C misdemeanor. Sending unsolicited lewd images, such as those containing nudity and sexual acts via text or other digital platforms, would be punishable by a fine of up to $500.

"Time and time again we hear stories of this sort of harassment, and it's time for a solution," Meyer said Monday. "Sending a lewd photo to someone that has not requested it or someone you don't know is no different than exposing yourself to a stranger in public or performing other lewd acts. This is becoming a bigger issue among our teenagers and young adults, and while it seems less egregious since done over text or email, we must establish that this is not acceptable by making it a punishable offense," said Meyer.

In crafting HB 2789, Meyer worked with stakeholders like the Texas-based, female-driven relationship app Bumble. Input from various digital entities highlighted the growing prevalence of aggressive and unsolicited sexual communication occurring across modern communication platforms, including text messages, social media, and dating applications.

"A considerable amount of our lifetime is spent online – especially young adults – yet the digital world has fallen short in protecting us there," said Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd. "What is illegal in the real world must be illegal in the digital world, and this legislation is a first step in the right direction in adding that accountability. We are so grateful to Chairman Meyer for his willingness to take on this important issue and we're excited to be partnering with him and working with our state lawmakers to create much-needed change for future generations."

House Bill 2789 creates an opportunity for lawmakers to treat this digital version of indecent exposure in a manner in keeping with Texas' stance against unsolicited sexual displays. The bill offers a clear deterrent to those considering sending unsolicited sexual pics and similar inappropriate conduct, and protects the unwilling recipients who continue to have no legal recourse for such abuses. The bill now awaits referral to committee, after which Meyer will work to pass the legislation through the Texas House, then the Texas Senate, and ultimately onto the desk of Governor Greg Abbott for passage into law.



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