Calif. Lawmakers Pass "Revenge Porn" Bill

If signed into law, SB 255 could set a precedent for the rest of the nation when it comes to cyber harassment

By Samantha Tata
|  Friday, Sep 13, 2013  |  Updated 9:10 AM EDT
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"Revenge Porn" Bill Heads to Gov. Brown's Desk

Senate Bill 255 targets cyber revenge, also known as revenge porn, which is typically distributed after a bitter break-up.

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A law that would punish scorned ex-lovers who post online nude images of their former partners is headed to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Both the state Senate and Assembly unanimously passed Senate Bill 255 Wednesday, which gives California law enforcement their first tool to combat so-called “revenge porn,” nude images posted online without the victim’s consent, with identifying information and the purpose to harass or annoy.

Brown has 30 days to sign the bill into law, though it’s unclear if he will. If signed, SB 255 would take effect immediately.

A conviction of distributing “revenge porn” – a misdemeanor – would be punishable by up to one year in a county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both, according to the bill.

Much of the bill stayed intact during its movement through the state legislature, with a single change.

The final version of the bill does not cover “selfies” – that is, if someone takes a provocative image of themselves that then is published without their consent online, the person who posts the image could not be punished.

If the “revenge porn” bill becomes law, Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), author of the bill, will try to strengthen it next year to include “selfies,” according to a Cannella spokesman.

SB 255 faced little pushback from California lawmakers.

Only one California state senator, Leland Yee, a Democrat, voted against SB 255 when it came before the senate in August, NBC News reported. Lee cited concerns the law would infringe on First Amendment rights.

Still, many lawmakers said they recognized a need to update the law to keep up with changing technology.

And California’s SB 255 could pave the way for the rest of the nation.

Websites that can be accessed nationwide specialize in posting “revenge porn,” and charge the subjects "unreasonable" fees to take down the images, Cannella said.

The bill was inspired, in part, by a 15-year-old Northern California girl who killed herself after three boys allegedly took pictures of themselves sexually assaulting her while she was passed out at a party, then posting those images online.

Eight days later, Audrie Potts hanged herself.

Three teenage boys were arrested in April in connection with the case.

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