By: Eoghan Olkeriil Ngirudelsang

A bill to criminalize unauthorized distribution of pornographic pictures and videos passed its 3rd and final reading on Tuesday, September 19, in the Senate.

In light of last year’s and this year’s circulation of many viral pornographic videos and pictures, Delegate Timothy Sinsak and other delegates initiated the bill amending Chapter 16, Title 17 of the Palau National Code (PNC) to “Criminalize unauthorized distribution of sensitive images.”

The bill makes distributing intimate, sensitive, and pornographic images a Class C Felony and a tort (a civil wrong) with civil liability. It allows for awarding damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, punitive damages, and criminal penalties.

A person guilty of unauthorized distribution of such images will be fined a thousand dollars ($1,000)  and five hundred ($500) dollars per day for each subsequent distribution. Furthermore, the bill allows a person whose image is in the already distributed “sensitive” video or picture to sue the distributor for damages, including attorney’s fees.

However, the bill removes liability from a computer service, information service, or telecommunication provider for the content provided by another person.  It also removes liability from a person who distributes for legitimate public purposes.

“I want to thank Floor Leader Secilil Eldebechel for this committee report and the bill. I asked him to ensure this bill will address revenge porn,” stated Senator Inabo at the 2nd reading.  She said that in a small country like ours, such images will cause distress and humiliation and ruin people’s reputations, especially young people.

Senator Eldebechel said Guam passed similar legislation to criminalize the unauthorized distribution of pornographic images and videos, including revenge porn, a deed in which one will share or make public intimate pictures and videos of another person as revenge.

When the president signs, distributing viral pornographic images and videos popularized in Palau these past years will be illegal, carrying stiff fines.

Despite strong support for the bill from both houses of OEK, the added baggage tacked to it while in the Senate may jeopardize its passage in the House.  The version passed in the Senate this week, HB 11-76.8S, HD1, SD2, contains a Continuing Budget Resolution rider, a proposal the House of Delegates adamantly opposes.

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