The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation on Wednesday that protects an individual against sexual exploitation. This legislation is needed as we live in a hyper-sexualized society where AI technology and deep fakes are advancing at a rapid pace. 

HB 591, “Modernize Sex Crimes,” passed unanimously in the Senate Wednesday and was sent back to the House for concurrence. Rep. Ted Davis, R—New Hanover, introduced this bill in the House during the last session where it passed unanimously before proceeding to the Senate. 

“This bill will create the new offense of sexual extortion where a person threatens to disclose a private image in order to compel a victim to pay money or to do something else,” explained Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance on the Senate floor. “Also, it updates definitions in the statutes related to sexual exploitation of a minor. It makes updates to the sex offender and public protection registration. And finally, it modifies provisions related to bringing a private civil action. I know of no opposition to this bill.”

Shortly after the session began this year, the bill moved through the Senate again. On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee reported favorably on the proposal and placed it on the Senate calendar where it passed 44-0. 

This bill will amend Article 26 of Chapter 14 of the general statutes. 

“It adds to chapter 14, solicitation of a child by computer to commit an unlawful sex act to communicate with the parent, guardian or caretaker, (…) makes updates to the sex offender and public protection registration to include these offenses,” Sen. Galey told the Senate finance committee on Wednesday morning.  “And then finally, section four modifies the provisions related to bringing private civil action.”

HB 591 defines “sexual extortion” in the following way: 

“A person commits the offense of sexual extortion if the person intentionally threatens to disclose a private image,  or to decline to delete, remove, or retract a previously disclosed private image, of the victim or of a family member of the victim in order to compel or attempt to compel the victim or an immediate family member of the victim to do any act or refrain from doing any act against the victims will, with the attempt to obtain additional private images or anything else of value or any acquittance, advantage, or immunity,” according to the bill.” 

Rep. Davis told the Carolina Journal that he agreed to include the original language of HB 591 in another bill that became law in the last session and for the Senate to replace it with the new title “Modernize Sex Crimes.”

On Thursday, the bill was referred to the House Rules Committee.