A law that would punish scorned ex-lovers who post online nude images of their former partners passed the Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 255 would give 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.
Cyber revenge typically happens after a bitter break-up, said Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), author of the bill.
“People who post or text pictures that are meant to be private as a way to seek revenge are reprehensible,” Cannella said in a statement. “Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted.”
Websites specialize in posting these photos and videos, and charge the subjects "unreasonable" fees to take down the images, Cannella said.
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.
Several lawmakers signed on to the bill Tuesday as co-authors, a positive sign, according to a spokesman for Cannella.
“As we shine a greater light on this program, more people understand laws need to be changed to keep up with this technology,” spokesman Jeff Macadeo said. “Technology has moved quicker and we’re playing catch up.”
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.
A bill similar to SB 255 failed in the Florida legislature last month.
If California’s attempt to criminalize cyber revenge passes the State Legislature and is signed by the governor, it immediately will become law.
The bill is now headed to the State Senate, which Macadeo hopes will vote on SB 255 within the next two weeks.