California Governor Jerry Brown Criminalizes Revenge Porn

California Governor Jerry Brown Criminalizes Revenge Porn

In 2009, Holly Jacobs’ Facebook account was hacked after a breakup with her boyfriend. Not long after, a nude photograph of her was put up on a ‘revenge porn’ website, a photograph she had only given to her ex-boyfriend. Holly’s story reflects a growing trend in which men, either through anger or jealousy or maybe even out of spite, will post naked pictures of their ex online as a sort of way to ‘get back’ at their former girlfriends for any supposed transgressions. One website, IsAnyoneUp.com (which now redirects to bullyville.com), encouraged users to post obscene pictures of former lovers. Some even featured Facebook photographs along with such identifying information as telephone numbers and addresses. Until now, New Jersey was the only state to make it a felony to post nude photographs of an individual without that person’s consent.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Tuesday that would criminalize ‘revenge porn’ in that state. According to the LA Times on Tuesday, “Under the bill by Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), those convicted of illegally distributing private images with the intent to harass or annoy face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.” Some however, do not feel like this is enough. According to an article on the website slate.com, the new California law “would make only some forms of revenge posting a misdemeanor punishable by jail time or a hefty fine — applying only to photos taken by others and posted with an intent to cause serious distress.” The problem is that it leaves out a large proportion of the photographs posted on sites that feature ‘revenge porn’: the so-called ‘selfie.’ The article goes on to relate the experience of Marianna Taschinger, who was manipulated by her then-boyfriend to send him photographs of herself. Ms. Taschinger stated that her boyfriend told her that if she did not send him any nude photographs that it meant she did not love him, a non-sequitur at best. The article also brings up a valid point: what of those pictures that women (or men, even) take of themselves and offer freely to their partners, only to have them later be turned into a means to humiliate the individual?

Such arguments point out the shortcomings of the California law, which would only, if successful, prevent a small facet of the phenomenon. The biggest reason why sites such as isanyoneup.com are still considered legal is because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that websites are not liable for the content their users generate, thanks in no small part to the fact that most people do not have their images copyrighted. Would a banishment of these websites then end the behavior of these angry exes? Probably not, but it would help in muffling their presence, even if only temporarily. Meanwhile, victims such as Holly Jacobs have taken things into their own hands.

She has created a website called www.endrevengeporn.org. The site’s mission “is to become a one-stop shop for everyone that is involved in the war against revenge porn.” It offers links to various attorneys and lawmakers across the United States; a petition for victims to sign that hopes to aid in the criminalization of revenge porn; and also a form for the victim to fill out that states that they are willing to testify, either anonymously or no, in favor of a bill that may likewise criminalize the activity.

For now, the recent California legislation hints at a possible trend that the issue of revenge porn is starting to be taken more seriously as more victims speak up.

Written By: Matthew Clark

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