California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 255, or the “Revenge Porn” bill, on October 1, 2013. The law makes it a crime to post sexually explicit pictures or video online of another person without his or her permission with the intention of causing emotional distress or publicly humiliating the subject. Here are California’s revenge porn laws.

In recent years, incidents of “revenge porn” (also known as “cyber revenge”) have grown more common with the explosion of technology and social networking sites. This has made it easier for disgruntled ex-lovers to exact public revenge for a failed relationship. Numerous websites that allow people to post such content have been launched. Some sites have even gone so far as to charge victims money to have the offending pictures taken down. And there is little that can be done legally to take action against the operators. A victim can sue the perpetrators in civil court for damages—a costly and time-consuming proposition—but it appears that website operators are protected from liability. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that websites and Internet service providers cannot be treated as a publisher for the information posted by another content provider.

The legislation was inspired in part by the suicide of 15-year-old Audrie Potts. The Northern California teen took her life in September 2012 after pictures allegedly taken by three teenage boys were posted online of the boys allegedly committing sexual assault while Audrie was unconscious. The boys were arrested in April 2013 and charged with her assault. Audrie’s parents have since filed a civil suit against the boys. A teenage girl who was allegedly present for the assault was also named in the suit.

“People who post or text pictures that are meant to be private as a way to seek revenge are reprehensible,” said State Senator Anthony Cannella, the author of the original California bill. “Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted. This is a common-sense bill that clamps down on those who exploit intimacy and trust for revenge or personal gain.”

Critics contend the bill doesn’t go far enough, as it only covers photos and videos taken by others, and not “selfies” (or images taken by the subject). A study by the non-profit organization Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) suggests that up to 80% of all victims of cyber revenge contain photos taken by the victim. The CCRI was founded by Holly Jacobs, a Florida woman who was herself the victim of revenge porn. The organization seeks to raise awareness about the nature and prevalence of online harassment and to promote state and federal legislation regarding online harassment and abuse.

Senator Canella has stated his intention to work on addressing the legislation’s limitations next year. Similar bills are under consideration in other states as well. This year, Florida failed to pass a similar law due to First Amendment concerns that would have made the act a felony. At this time, New Jersey is the only other state that has such a law in place. Take the time to research your state’s revenge porn laws.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been involved in revenge porn, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.