In my most recent blog, I reported on the phenomenon of "revenge porn," the unfortunate practice by former lovers, boyfriends, and husbands of posting nude and sexual photos and videos of women with whom they had been intimate.
Now, according to Reuters, California Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed a unique state law that criminalizes revenge porn.
California's Revenge Porn Law
The new law makes it a misdemeanor for individuals to take and then circulate without consent such images online with the intent to harass or annoy. And a conviction for violation of this law is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense. The new law is immediately effective.
The new revenge porn law was preceded by a California law that already made it a crime to take sexually explicit photos of another person without his or her consent or knowledge. The new revenge porn law extends the same misdemeanor criminal status to anyone who takes nude pictures of another person with the understanding that those images are to remain private but subsequently disseminates the images without permission to cause serious emotional distress.
Criticism of New Law
Some may argue that the misdemeanor penalties of the new California revenge porn law are not severe enough. Opponents may believe that the need to prove intent to cause serious emotional distress may be too a high standard for guilt under the statute.
Moreover, critics may be disenchanted that the new law does not cover "selfies" -- meaning that the law does not criminalize the subsequent distribution of nude photos women have taken of themselves that they intended to share only with their partners. In addition, many may not like that the new law does not specifically go after operators of Web sites and instead only targets the people who post the damaging photos.
While such arguments can be made, the new California revenge porn law is a step in the right direction in creating criminal liability for the harm caused by public revenge porn humiliation.