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California’s New Revenge Porn Legislation

The spread of social media networks and social profiles has, unfortunately, made the potential for cyber harassment more common today. For instance, the phenomenon of revenge porn has sparked controversy in society, prompting California’s Legislature to enact a new law to help deter future acts of involuntary pornography. If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of cyber harassment, including revenge porn, please contact us today to speak to an attorney who can help explain the legal remedies.

What Laws Apply to Acts of Revenge Porn or Cyberharassment?

In October 2013, California’s governor, Jerry Brown, signed Senate Bill 255 (“SB 255”) a law into effect, which made revenge porn a criminal offense, allowing victims to seek legal remedies from perpetrators. Revenge porn, also known as involuntary pornography or “cyber revenge,” is the act of posting pictures and videos that contain sexually-explicit content of a former significant other without their knowledge or consent. Typically, former significant others will post this kind of content to harass or embarrass previous partners. However, in some cases, hackers can get a hold of this type of content and post the pictures on adult websites. And, often times, the party distributing the images will include personal information about the victim (e.g., name, address, and social media accounts). Posting this type of personal information increases traffic through Google and draws more online visitors. However, this information also poses a serious threat to the victims, some of whom have reported the unwanted attention that comes from strangers.

What Remedies Are Available For Victims of Revenge Porn?

Under California’s new law, people guilty of distributing sexual content of their former significant others may face six months in jail and a fine of $1,000 for their first offense. To establish a claim for revenge porn, victims must demonstrate the perpetrators posted the photos to “harass or annoy” with an “intent to cause serious emotional distress” to the victim. However, critics of the new law argue that it lacks the strength to effectively prosecute and prevent revenge porn. For instance, the law only provides a remedy if the person who distributes the content is the same person who took the pictures. A survey by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative found that up to 80% of the victims of revenge porn had taken the pictures themselves. However, the new law does not provide remedies for pictures that victims take of themselves (i.e., selfies). So, this is a loophole that should be fixed soon. Accordingly, a majority of cases that fall under the revenge porn category would not be able to seek remedies under this new law. Nonetheless, California is the second state to adopt a statute against revenge porn, so the new legislation is a step forward for victims of this form of harassment. New Jersey was the first state to adopt a law in 2003 that makes it a felony to distribute secretly-recorded audio or video files containing sexually-explicit content over the Internet. Additionally, California victims can continue to seek remedies under the state’s penal code for such instances of cyberharassment and cyberbullying.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we guide clients in legal matters regarding all aspects of cyber privacy and remedies against cyber harassment by using extensive knowledge and skills to create innovative solutions. Please contact us today to set up a free consultation.