Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Friday hosted the public signing of a bill that makes electronically sending unsolicited lewd photographs a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
As of September 1, knowingly sending so-called dick pics or other unwanted sexualized images will be a Class C misdemeanor. The bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Morgan Meyer and passed the Texas senate on May 20, applies to images of "intimate parts" or "sexual conduct." It was officially signed by the governor June 10.
The bill also gained support thanks to Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder and chief executive of Bumble, the "women make the first move" dating app. Wolfe Herd backed the bill from its gestation, and has testified in its favor. Earlier this year she told state lawmakers that a survey found one-third of her platform's female users had received unrequested explicit images.
The Bumble founder tells Inc. she believes it's time to take into account how much bad behavior occurs online that would be illegal if it happened face-to-face. "It is time that our laws mirror this way we lead double lives, in the physical and the digital," Wolfe Herd said. "You look at government right now, it only protects the physical world. But our youth are spending a lot more time in the digital world than they are in the physical."
Carrie Goldberg, the founder of C. A. Goldberg, a Brooklyn-based law firm that represents victims of sexual violence and online harassment, said it's refreshing to see a business owner like Wolfe Herd taking an active role in politics to fight a problem plaguing her customers. "Just like we should have the choice of who sees us naked, we should have the choice of who we see naked," she said.
The new law could face legal challenges; opponents say applying its broad language could infringe on free speech. Last April, a Texas appeals court struck down a similar state law that made it illegal to post sexualized images of a previous partner to the internet without that person's permission, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Several other states have similar laws to prohibit what's known as "revenge pornography."
Bumble, which was founded in 2014, emerged as a majority women-run dating site with a keen awareness of the ills perpetrated upon strangers who connect online. Over the years it has banned nudity, misogynistic language, tacky mirror selfies, and images that include guns. Bumble executives say they would like to take the legislation national. Wolfe Herd says she wants to see other tech companies and platforms take action based on what's right--rather than what their bottom line dictates.
"I want us to serve as proof: You can still drive massive profit and be a good business model while pushing the needle on safety and privacy for users," she said.