Va. Senate unanimously passes bill to fine ‘cyber flashers’

There has been a lot of partisan tension this year in Richmond, Virginia — with Democrats controlling the state Senate and Republicans controlling the House of Delegates — but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have agreed that so-called “cyber flashers” should be punished.

A bipartisan bill addressing indecent exposure online passed unanimously in the Virginia Senate Monday and now heads to the House.

It would lead to fines for someone who sends lewd, unsolicited photos online.

“Virginians deserve protection from indecent exposure, whether it’s online or offline,” said Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who introduced the legislation. “This bill will help make a safer Virginia and stop the perpetrators who send unwanted photos.”

The bill calls for civil penalties that would fine someone $250 for a first offense and $500 every time after that.

It would only apply to senders, recipients and images involving people older than 18 years old, as minors are protected by other laws.

McClellan cited statistics from a 2017 Pew Research Center study showing that 53% of young American women and 37% of young American men have been sent unsolicited explicit material while online.

“Social media platforms are an especially fertile ground for online harassment, but these behaviors occur in a wide range of online venues,” according to the study.

“This bill addresses a serious issue and I am very proud of the collaboration on this,” said Republican Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, who joined with McClellan in pushing for the legislation. “We speak for a lot of people who are very eager to see this bill pass.”

McClellan and the lawmakers who worked with her received support from Bumble, a dating app that challenges “heterosexual dating norms” by requiring women to make the first move in reaching out to men for dates.

Payton Iheme, a spokesperson for Bumble, reacted to the Senate’s vote saying that the organization was “grateful” to partner with “bipartisan state lawmakers to drive institutional change as we pass this bill.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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