California outlaws ‘revenge porn’ in first-of-its-kind legislation

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill outlawing revenge porn in California.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill outlawing revenge porn in California. Credit: Reuters

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a first-of-its-kind state law outlawing what has become known as revenge porn, the distribution of private, explicit photos or video of other people on the Internet to humiliate them.

The measure, which passed both houses of the Democratic-led state legislature almost unanimously last month, makes it a misdemeanor to circulate such images online, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

Signed into law late on Tuesday, the measure goes into effect immediately. It takes aim at an increasingly prevalent act of betrayal that typically occurs when a person posts nude images of a former romantic partner online as a way of exacting revenge after a breakup.

The images often end up proliferating on dozens of revenge porn websites that specialize in publishing such pictures, some of which charge the subjects fees to remove the offending material. The only other recourse victims have had was to pursue the perpetrators in civil court.

“Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims,” said the legislation’s chief sponsor, state Senator Anthony Cannella, a Republican from the Central Valley town of Ceres. “Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted.”

California law already made it a crime to take sexually explicit photos or video images of another person without his or her consent or knowledge.

The new statute extends the same misdemeanor classification to anyone who takes nude pictures of another person under the mutual understanding that those images are to remain private but subsequently distributes the images without permission to cause serious emotional distress.

New Jersey has an older law that allows criminal prosecution of such behavior, but that measure was passed as a cyberbullying statute not specifically aimed at revenge porn itself, said Cannella’s spokesman, Jeff Macedo.

The phenomenon has become so widespread that it was recently featured as a story line on the popular HBO series “The Newsroom,” in which one of the main characters, Sloan Sabbith, played by Olivia Munn, falls prey to an act of revenge porn by an ex-boyfriend.

A leading activist for criminalizing the practice is Holly Jacobs, a victim herself who launched a website called endrevengeporn.org to lobby for greater sanctions against revenge porn and to offer assistance to other victims.

Describing her ordeal on her website, Jacobs recounts that a former boyfriend began posting explicit photos and video of her on the Internet after their breakup in 2009, along with her full name, email address, job title and specifics about where she worked and her PhD program in psychology.

“For three years damage control was a full-time job,” she wrote, recounting that police and FBI were of no help, and that an Internet specialist she hired to get the material removed proved fruitless.

In an interview with NBC News, Jacobs called the new California law “an encouraging first step.” But she said it fails to criminalize the distribution of self-taken photos, or “selfies,” that were shared willingly with spouses or partners but later posted online without the subject’s consent.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…