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
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

Movies

Interview: Robert Rodriguez doesn't mind that Jessica Alba…

In making a Hollywood-friendly adaptation of Frank Miller's gritty "Sin City" graphic novel series, Robert Rodriguez learned that some things have to go — namely…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.