Texans: Keep your lewd photos to yourself. Sending them might soon be a crime

A Texas lawmaker wants to crack down on sexually explicit” pictures being sent to people who aren’t asking for them.

State Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, has filed a bill to make it a crime to send lewd photos to unwilling participants through text messages, social media and online dating sites.

This digital sexual harassment includes sending unwanted photos showing genitals or any person “engaging in sexual conduct or with the person’s intimate parts exposed.”

“Time and time again we hear stories of this sort of harassment, and it’s time for a solution,” Meyer said in a statement. “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.”

Meyer’s proposal, House Bill 2789, would make sending those photos without someone’s permission a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Officials with Bumble, a Texas-based dating app, worked with Meyer on this bill.

“A considerable amount of our lifetime is spent online — especially young adults — yet the digital world has fallen short in protecting us there,” Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd said in a statement. “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.”

She said this bill would help create “much-needed change for future generations.”

Meyer’s bill has yet to be referred to committee.

Texas lawmakers have until the end of their legislative session, May 27, to pass any new laws.

If the bill becomes law, it would go into effect Sept. 1, 2019.

“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,” Meyer said.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.