Politics

Revenge porn law should include selfies, says California State Senator

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A State Senator from the North Valley wants to toughen California's laws governing revenge porn.

Revenge porn is when someone's nude or sexual photos are shared online, without their consent -- often times from the person's ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Earlier year this year, California became the first state to pass laws specifically targeting the practice. But now, a state senator says the laws don't go far enough.

The current state law only applies to pictures taken by the person who posts them -- pictures that were meant to stay private. California State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) wants to include selfies -- pictures that the subject takes of him or herself -- because he says more than half of revenge porn cases involve self-snapped pictures.

Anyone can access the pictures on websites dedicated to what's called 'revenge porn' -- nude and sexual photos allegedly posted online by scorned exes to get revenge.

A topless picture of Charlotte Laws' 26-year-old daughter ended up on one of these sites last year. Laws says the photo was never sent to anyone. She says her daughter's computer was hacked. "My daughter had taken about a hundred photos on her cell phone and one was topless."

Nine days after she was hacked, the topless picture ended up in a revenge porn website -- and it was virtually impossible to remove.

State Senator Anthony Cannella helped pass a "Revenge Porn" law that took effect in October. It makes posting private photos of someone without their consent a criminal offense -- punishable by six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

But Cannella says the law does not go far enough because it doesn't apply to self-taken photos -- or "selfies" -- as is the case with Charlotte's daughter. Cannella's proposed legislation includes selfies, and also simplifies the current law.

The current law requires courts to prove that sharing the sexual photo caused "serious emotional distress" to the victim, and the person who posted the picture intended harm. The proposed law will shift the focus entirely to consent.

Critics have raised concerns about how the law could infringe on First Amendment rights. But Action News Legal Analyst Tony Cappozi says that shouldn't be an issue. "This kind of law here is pretty clear, if something is put on the internet it's going to embarrass anyone, we know it when we see it and this is a violation."

Cannella plans to introduce the legislation in the January session. He expects some push back in getting it passed. He says the original legislation he introduced included "selfies," but it had to be removed to get it through the legislation.

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