Expand harassment laws to protect victims of online abuse

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In 2013, 29-year-old Ian Barber allegedly posted nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Twitter and sent them to her employer and sister. New York prosecutors charged him with aggravated harassment, but the charges were soon thrown out. It was not because evidence pointed to someone else as responsible for the disclosure of the woman’s nude photos. Rather it was because Barber did not send the photos directly to the victim, as New York’s aggravated harassment law requires.

Many state harassment and stalking laws, like New York’s, require proof that the defendant directly contacted the victim. Take Colorado’s, which defines harassment as repeated “forms of communication with another person” in a manner that would cause a “reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress” and that “does cause that person to suffer serious emotional distress.”

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