Florida cyber sex crimes bill passes after senator’s story of extortion by Broward County teen

A Florida senator’s disturbing and personal story about nude images stolen from her and traded and sold online led to the passage of a bill Tuesday that aims to prevent future victims.

The bill passed unanimously in the House and now goes to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, who became the victim of an extortion attempt by a Broward County teenager who threatened to release images stolen from her. During the investigation, she learned the images, including video of her and her husband, were being sold and traded online.

"There’s a special kind of evil in the world, the kind of evil that believes it’s OK to ruin someone’s life by sharing an explicit image or video that they did not have permission to share," said Republican Rep. Joe Harding, who sponsored the House bill, as Book sat behind him.

If signed by DeSantis, the bill would make it a felony to buy, sell or trade stolen sexually explicit images from someone’s phone or other digital devices. It would also make disseminating altered or created sexually explicit images, known as deepfakes, a felony, and strengthen child pornography revenge porn and bestiality laws.

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After hearing Book’s story, Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana revealed she was the victim of someone who created sexually explicit deepfakes of her. She reported the images to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last year, but was told it wasn’t a crime.

"It protects the safety of women, girls, children, and today is International Women’s Day, so I think it’s poetic justice that it happened today. I’m just overjoyed," Javellana said.

After hearing about the bill, Javellana traveled to Tallahassee and testified in support. She said it was difficult after previously not telling anyone about her experience, but it also helped her heal.

"I’ve met other women who have gone through similar situations and seeing them come forward made me feel like I could come forward," she said. "It definitely has brought healing to me and I hope it can bring healing to many others ... I hope they know they’re not alone and they don’t deserve what was done to them and they are free to go about their lives."