California Criminalizes Revenge Porn* (kind of)

California Criminalizes Revenge Porn*

*kind of

Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 568 introduced by Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Central Valley) which criminalizes some (but not all) acts of revenge porn.  Specifically, effective today, it prohibits the following:

Any person who photographs or records by any means the image of the intimate body part or parts of another identifiable person, under circumstances where the parties agree or understand that the image shall remain private, and the person subsequently distributes the image taken,with the intent to cause serious emotional distress, and the depicted person suffers serious emotional distress.

Not covered are distributing or posting photos taken by the victim or some third party.

cannellaSenator Cannella explained:

People who post or text pictures that are meant to be private as a way to seek revenge are reprehensible. . . .  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.

Even this partial victory has caused an enormous increase in awareness and discussion of this issue.   For example,  Emily Bazelon writes in Slate “Why Do We Tolerate Revenge Porn” in Slate, declaring “revenge porn cannot be allowed to be a harm without a remedy.”  University of Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks has drafted a model bill that focuses on whether there was consent to publication which seems like a common sense approach.  As Amanda Marcotte explains in Slate:

And even if a woman happily takes a naked selfie on her own accord, does that mean she is simply just leaving herself open to later exploitation? Just as we recognize that two people having had consensual sex doesn’t mean later encounters are necessarily consensual, we should recognize that a picture offered as a consensual sexual gesture can later be turned into a tool to harass and abuse—and there should be penalties for that.

The California law is a positive first step to spur debates in other states or even Congress.  We also need to overcome a tendency to judge the victim, as this issue too often is greeted with a snicker and not the sympathy it deserves.  Listen to victims tell their stories of how this has impacted their lives and maybe then you will realize we need more emphasis on protecting our citizens rather than judging them.

The new law is below.