“Technology has made it significantly easier to be a creep,” says New York City Councilman Joseph Borelli. He’s one of two local councilmen who have co-sponsored an “anti-flashing bill” that seeks to make it illegal to send strangers unsolicited nude photos.
It happens all the time: People use AirDrop on their iPhone or AirDroid on their Android phone to send an unsolicited nude photo to an unsuspecting stranger. And while in most situations it’s likely a man sending an inappropriate photo to a woman, it’s undeniable that it happens among men as well.
In its recent reporting on this anti-flashing bill, The New York Times spoke with several women — and one man — who fell victim to these exact circumstances, most while using public transportation.
And because of how Apple’s AirDrop works — it shows you a “preview” of the file being sent your way and lets you accept or reject it, but if the file is someone’s unsolicited nude pic, you’ve already been forced to see it — people are able to anonymously hide behind their phones while they “flash” a total stranger. Many people, including minors, may have AirDrop or AirDroid enabled on their phones and not even realize it.
(Apple does have setting whereby iPhone users can turn off AirDrop completely or only allow their contacts to AirDrop them.)
This NYC anti-flashing bill — co-sponsored by Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island, and Donovan J. Richards, a Democrat from Queens — seeks to explicitly make it a crime to “send by electronic device an unsolicited intimate image … with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person.” The crime would be punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail.
Currently in New York State it is already a misdemeanor to harass a person by phone, mail or other written communication, but the law says nothing about harassment via images. It’s believed New York City could be the first city to ever attempt to specifically address unsolicited nude pics.
“Keep your pic in your pants. If you do it, the message we are sending is that the repercussion is a fine or jail time,” says Richards.
What about unsolicited nude pics sent through gay apps?
While there’s an argument to be made for differentiating the use of AirDrop or AirDroid to send unsolicited nude photos to strangers on the subway and the use of gay apps (where nude photos are often swapped between users), the act of sending racy photos without request is indeed an issue in our modern-day app culture.
And as we know, the majority of LGBTQ people are meeting their partners through apps and other websites.
Gay apps are rife with men who think it’s OK to initiate conversation by sending unsolicited nude pics, which even if not illegal as of now, is inappropriate and obnoxious — plus, more often than not, it’s a horrible way to engage with someone you may be interested in.
In the end, it comes down to an issue of consent. No one should be forced to gaze upon your naked body or body parts if they don’t want to. And in New York City, at least, if the anti-flashing bill passes, doing so could very well get you put behind bars.