Gov. Brown signs anti-revenge porn bill

Gov. Brown signs anti-revenge porn bill

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Tempted to post an explicit photo of an ex-lover? Well, you can expect jail time or a hefty fine.

Before Senate Bill 255, victims of so-called "revenge porn" - explicit pictures or videos posted online by an ex - only had the option to file a lawsuit in civil court.

As of Tuesday, victims were given a second way to fight back: criminal prosecution.

"She had taken a topless picture of herself in her room," said Dr. Charlotte Laws, when speaking about her daughter, who she said is a victim of revenge porn.

Through a Skype interview, Eyewitness News spoke to Laws, who is an advocate for victims of revenge porn.

"I have so much empathy for her and all the other victims. I can imagine how horrible it would be to feel completely vulnerable, completely exposed. I call this cyber-rape,” said Laws.

In the age of social media, photos and videos that were privately made can easily find their way onto hundreds of websites, most of the time posted by an ex after a bitter breakup.

SB 255 outlawing revenge porn was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday.

"It's a really, really horrendous thing, and I’m really happy that at least some politicians are looking at doing something about this, and really helping to protect these people,” said Laws.

Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres wrote the bill, stating offenders could face a $1,000 fine and even jail time.

"Up to six months for the first offense, up to a year in jail for the second offense," he said. "Pictures that were shared in a trusting, in an implied trusting environment, were now being used as weapons because the other party was upset for whatever reason."

The bill only covers those who have had their picture taken by another person, and uploaded online. The uploaded images also have to have “the intent to cause serious emotional distress” to the victim.

"I reluctantly agreed, because my thought was it's better to have something on the books to give law enforcement a tool, and then we can add on it,” said Cannella.

"Currently, the way the law is worded, it's only gonna protect 10-12 percent of revenge porn victims. But, it is a first step,” said Laws, referencing a planned amendment to the bill next year.

Victims of revenge porn are advised to contact local law enforcement to see if their images are covered under the bill.

On the other side of the issue, critics argue it could restrict freedom of speech rights.