Bumble Founder Backs Texas Bill To Criminalize Sending Unsolicited Sexual Photos

  • Friday, May 03 2019 @ 09:40 am
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Bumble Backs Bill To Criminalize Sending Unsolicited Sexual Photos
Image: Bumble

Bumble famously banned mirror selfies and introduced new photo moderation rules in 2016. The updated guidelines served to further Bumble’s mission to create a safe, friendly platform where users were encouraged to interact with the same kindness and courtesy as they do in real life. Two years later, Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is taking that mission offline and into the Texas legal system.

A bill introduced in the Texas House of Representatives in March would making sending an unsolicited nude or sexual photograph a misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $500. Wolfe Herd, who has been campaigning to make so-called ‘cyberflashing’ a criminal offence, has worked closely with legislators and lawmakers to set the bill in motion. If passed, the bill would take effect September 1, 2019.

“Right now, the internet is the Wild Wild West,” Wolfe Herd told Inc. “It’s ridiculous that there is no accountability online for things you are not allowed to do in the real world. We are trying to make a law for indecent exposure, but for the digital realm.”

Wolfe Herd began her crusade in Texas, home to Bumble’s Austin headquarters. She hired lobbyist Gaylord Hughey to promote the issue after witnessing the prevalence of lewd behavior on Bumble and losing patience with social media companies' failure to "put their users' safety ahead of the bottom line."

"We are the ones with the data and watching the user behavior every day," she said. "As long as there is still anyone on our product who is being mistreated, we have to do this. And others across the industry certainly aren't taking the action."

Texas Representative Morgan Meyer. Meyer introduced the bill that would add “unlawful electronic transmission of sexually explicit visual material” as an offense in the state penal code. If the bill passes, the sending, without express permission, of photographs featuring sexual acts or intimate parts (even if clothed, but highly visible through the clothing) will become a Class C misdemeanor.

“Currently, if a person commits indecent exposure, it is a crime,” Meyer said while testifying in support of the bill before the House Criminal Jurisprudence committee. “But if that same person engages in such an act over texting or a dating app, the unwanting recipient has absolutely no recourse.”

“If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why is it not on your phone or computer?” Wolfe Herd asked Texas lawmakers during her testimony. “We have to call on you because as tech companies, we can only do so much. Please help us fill the gaps where we fall short.”

Wolfe Herd and other members of her team have met with both state and federal officials about establishing legal penalties for sending aggressive and unsolicited sexual communication online. If all goes well in Texas, a federal bill may be the outspoken founder’s next project.

"We've spoken to folks on both the left and the right. This is a human issue, and it's affecting our youth especially," Wolfe Herd said.