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

Neighbors testify at Overbrook roommate slaying trial

Neighbors and roommates were called to testify Wednesday in the trial of Renaldo Robichaw, 56, charged with murder for the death of roommate Albert Smith, 48.

Local

Attorney at heart of alleged insurance fraud took…

A Center City personal injury lawyer took his own life last week, days before D.A. Seth Williams released an indictment putting the lawyer at the heart of an alleged insurance…

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

National

U.S. soldier convicted of WikiLeaks crimes granted name…

By Carey Gillam(Reuters) - Former U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who is serving 35 years in prison for turning over classified files to WikiLeaks, can exchange…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

Movies

Latin culture highlighted at Filadelphia film fest

Get ready to have a “Bad Hair” day at the upcoming Filadelphia Latin American Film Festival. We mean that in the best possible way. The…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NHL

All signs suggest Steve Mason will start in…

Flyers head coach Craig Berube elected to put Steve Mason in net for the final minutes of Game 3.

NHL

Gary Bettman praises Philly prior to NHL draft

Gary Bettman will bring the NHL draft to Philadelphia this summer.

NHL

Flyers can’t solve Rangers shot blockers

The Rangers blocked a remarkable 28 Flyers' shots Tuesday night.

NHL

Flyers need much more from Claude Giroux

The Rangers have successfully shut down Claude Giroux so far, leading the Flyers 2-1 in the best of seven series.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."