California: One Step Closer To Outlawing Revenge Porn

State Capital Building CaliforniaIt's official: you'd better not start up a cheap hosting site where people can post nude pictures of exes and enemies in order to exact revenge. It's on its way to becoming against the law, after the California State Senate passed a measure banning ‘revenge porn.'

The bill defines revenge porn as the distribution of an image unknown to that person that would “cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress.”

Why California State Senate passed a measure banning ‘revenge porn'?

The bill was introduced after law enforcement officials came to Senator Anthony Cannella, asking him to do something to stop this practice in its tracks, a big problem their departments face, according to Cannella's communications director Jeff Macedo.

“Senator Cannella was made aware that there were no criminal penalties for revenge porn,” said Macedo to Mashable. “He looked at it as an issue and saw that here's an instance where technology is moving faster than the law.”

An Important Issue: California State Senate passed a measure banning ‘revenge porn'

Just how important is combatting these cheap hosting revenge porn sites? So important that although the bill was submitted after California's February 22 filing deadline, it was introduced as an “urgency measure.” An urgency measure can be filed past the deadline if it deals with an issue that “affects the public peace, health, or safety.” These types of bills require a two-thirds vote in both the assembly and senate in order to pass. Once passed, urgency measures become law immediately. The revenge porn bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 37 to 1, and will head to the state assembly.

If one is caught posting revenge porn in California, it will be a disorderly conduct misdemeanor for invasion of privacy according to the bill. The first time you are caught, the bill states you could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

It is Cannella's hope the bill hits the assembly prior to the end of the current legislative session on September 13. From there, it will move on to Governor Brown's desk for approval.

Will It Pass ? California State Senate passed a measure banning ‘revenge porn'

Although there is much support for the bill on the senate side, it still has one more hurdle to jump. Florida has introduced a bill similar to this, but the bill died in the legislature.

The Florida bill recognized “contextual consent” — basically, although it might have been okay for a husband to take nude pictures of his wife for him to enjoy exclusively, it is not okay for him to then post the pictures on the Internet after their divorce.

If the bill had passed successfully, it would have been a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The Revenge Porn Problem: California State Senate passed a measure banning ‘revenge porn'

Sites such as these have existed for many years. However, not much has been done to put an end to it. In an interview with VentureBeat, San Francisco attorney Erica Johnstone said she's handled cases dealing with revenge porn. At first, it was merely one ex seeking revenge against another. Now, there are extortion schemes involved. For example, some cheap hosting sites will charge the victim hundreds of dollars to remove their pictures from the site.

One thing is certain: victims out there hope for bills such as these to be successful. The victim in Florida that led to the creation of the unsuccessful bill just wanted her nude photos complete with her name, email address, and hometown taken off the site, but police told her no law was broken.

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