Del. Lesley Lopez, D-Montgomery, was cyber-flashed with a photo of a man exposing himself through a Twitter direct message after a hearing on her bill to create a task force to prevent and respond to non-consensual sexual imagery sent online.

Lopez reported the incident to House Sergeant-at-Arms Robert Parham, who stated that sending such images is not a Maryland crime and that the First Amendment protects sharing such images.

However, according to research conducted by Bumble, a dating app tech company, 48% of women aged 18-24 have received some form of unsolicited sexual image. The bill was supported by Bumble’s Vice President and Head of Global Policy, Payton Iheme, who testified that Bumble is addressing the issue globally as internet laws have not caught up with real life.

 At the hearing, Lopez said, “Members seemed to really understand the significance of the problem based on the testimony from the individuals who could share their experiences.”

The ease with which images and videos can be sent through Apple’s AirDrop feature has come under scrutiny for facilitating the practice of cyber-flashing. Caroline Thorne, Government Affairs Director for the University of Maryland Student Government Association, brought up the issue of AirDropping during the hearing.

 “Approximately two-thirds of college students have experienced sexual harassment in some form,” Thorne said. 

The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Lisae Jordan also backed the task force bill and highlighted the use of deep fakes, which are digitally manipulated videos that present disinformation. Jordan found that 90-95% of deep fakes are non-consensual pornography, and 95% of this figure is of women.

 “A task force really is the best way to look at all the myriad of issues,” Jordan said. “And try to make sure we can actually protect people from unwanted sexual imagery.”

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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