Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book is fighting back, after nude photos of her were stolen and used in an attempt at extortion.
Book is now working to give more teeth to the state’s revenge porn rules by making it a felony to create and disseminate digitally altered, sexually explicit images, also known as “deepfakes.”
The new legislation, introduced Tuesday, would also criminalize the theft of real images in cases where the person sought to distribute or benefit from them.
Last year, a teen claiming to have intimate photos of the 37-year-old senator, demanded $5,000 to delete the images. The 19-year-old would-be blackmailer sent Book pictures of her exposed breasts and threatened to destroy her career by distributing them.
Police later charged Jeremy Kamperveen with extortion and cyberstalking, according to a report in The Daily Mail. Not known is how Kamperveen obtained the photos in the first place, though Book apparently had images of her and her husband on her phone, and she said she had shared a post-operation photo of her lumpectomy scar with a friend.
“I hate that this happened to me,” Book said. “I hate it, I hate it, I hate, I hate it. But I’ll take it, because I know that I can do something about it.”
In addition to making the dissemination of deepfakes a serious offense, the bill would strengthen Florida’s revenge porn law by making it a felony to buy, sell, or trade stolen sexually explicit images from someone’s phone or other digital devices.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the bill at its first committee hearing, Tuesday.
Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Sabrina Javellana thanked Book Tuesday, saying she, too, was the victim of a deepfake by someone who altered photos from her Instagram page.
“They looked very, very real as if they were nude pictures I had taken of myself,” Javellana said in a phone interview.
The incident triggered painful memories from Javellana’s past. “I was raped my freshman year of college, and it was like it was happening all over again.”
Javellana reported the online images to law enforcement but was told investigators were helpless to do anything about it, as Florida law didn’t address deepfake images. She expressed her gratitude to Book for fighting back.
Books’ anger was apparent in her phone interview with AP, Monday evening. She cursed and choked back tears as she described the international industry centered around the trade and sale of illegal images, stolen from unsuspecting people. She described it as a sick and perverted subculture that pays more for images of celebrities and elected officials but also victimizes women who aren’t in the public eye.
“Truth be told, if it weren’t for my children, I would have ended my life,” Book said. “It brought up all of the stuff. All of it that you think that you’ve gotten under your belt, that you’ve fixed it and you’ve changed it, and then all of a sudden, here it is in front of your face.”
The conversations that people had on the website only made the horror worse, she said.
“They were reading about who I was and talking about how I’m a survivor of rape, so let’s try to get some rape videos. Can we get some of her getting raped, killed, tortured? Can we make some of that? Can we find it? How can we get it?” Book said.
While she doesn’t know how the photos were stolen, Book said she had already deleted them before she discovered they were on the internet, leading her to believe they were hacked from the cloud. According to investigators, the images the teenager sent to extort her were sent from virtual private networks in Sweden and Russia.
While she feels blessed to be in a position to fight back, with the resources to hire an attorney to have the images removed from websites, she acknowledges that her case will likely go on forever.
“There are still things up there,” she said. “They’ll never be gone. People were buying it, people were trading it, and this is not unique. This is happening every single day, to women predominantly.”
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