Feature

Finally: California bans revenge porn

Posting nude photos of an ex in the Golden State could land you in jail

Camera phones have made it dangerously easy to snap naughty photos. And as a result, so-called "revenge porn," in which jilted exes post embarrassing photos of their former flames online, has exploded, inflicting irreversible damage on thousands of victims across the country.

As tends to happens with these things, people's exploitation of technology has quickly outpaced existing laws, leaving revenge porn victims — the overwhelming majority of whom are female — with little legal recourse.

That now appears to be changing. This week, California became just the second state to make posting illicit pictures of an ex against their will punishable by law. The Guardian reports that the law, effective immediately, makes it a misdemeanor to post "identifiable nude pictures of someone else online without permission with the intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation." The penalty carries a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Back in June, state Sen. Anthony Canella (R-Calif.), who wrote the bill, told ABC News that he hopes the law will help hold mean-spirited ex-lovers accountable. "They are concerned about going to jail," said Cannella. "So this hopefully raises the bar enough where people think twice about engaging in this behavior because it's ruined people's lives."

Some critics argue that the law impedes First Amendment free speech rights, which is why, as the Daily Dot points out, states like Missouri and Florida have rejected similar revenge porn penalties.

And yet, it isn't hard to imagine how having your body plastered all over the internet for strange eyeballs to peruse can do irreparable damage to your reputation. Take the case of Holly Jacobs of Tampa. Much to her horror, private photos of the now 29-year-old sent to a former boyfriend in confidence began popping up on revenge porn sites. Jacobs, who was forced to change her name to salvage her career, spent the next few years of her life trying to scrub the photographs from the internet. She claims she was even harassed by anonymous emails threatening to send the photos to her boss and co-workers.

"I realized — this is what he wants me to do," she told Betabeat back in June. "He wants me to spend all of my time taking down my Google results instead of moving on with my life and being free and being in a good relationship and getting my Ph.D. So I essentially said, 'Fuck it.'"

California joins New Jersey (where it's a felony) as the only other state in the nation with laws that aid revenge porn victims.

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