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Revenge Porn Could Soon Be Illegal In California

The California Assembly is considering a bill that would make it illegal for people to share explicit images of their ex.

Posted on August 27, 2013, at 7:43 p.m. ET

Shutterstock

California lawmakers are looking to make revenge porn illegal.

Revenge porn, or sharing nude photos or videos of a former significant other or love interest with the intent to embarrass them after breaking up, is becoming more common, Nick Warner legislative director of the California State Sheriff's Association said.

"It's happening with increasing frequency," he said. "I didn't even know what the phrase meant a year ago."

Warner said it's currently difficult to charge people for revenge porn, but the bill would give law enforcement the tools it needs to do so.

If passed, the new law would make the practice a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine as long as the material was shared "with the intent to cause serious emotional distress." The current wording of the bill does not protect those who take explicit selfies. California's Senate Public Safety Committee approved the bill Tuesday.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Sen. Anthony Canella (R-Ceres, Calif.)

"We had some victims come forward and we did some research and we felt it was something important to address," said Calif. State Sen. Anthony Canella, a Republican from Ceres, who sponsored the bill.

Canella said there are even websites that profit by charging people fees to take down explicit photos they repost.

End Revenge Porn, an organization that promotes legislation to ban revenge porn and offers resources to people who have been victims of it, has been working with Canella's office to tailor the bill to protect victims.

"I have made every effort to ensure that it is worded in such a way as to provide the appropriate protection to victims while being careful not to impose on First Amendment rights," End Revenge Porn founder Holly Jacobs said in an email.

Jacobs said she has spoken to Canella's office about extending protections to those who take photos or videos of themselves, and said those changes are expected to be made by Friday.

"If this bill ultimately becomes a law, I am confident and excited about the prospect that other states will follow suit and pass their own bills to outlaw revenge porn," she said.

The ACLU originally opposed the bill on the grounds that posting content, even if offensive, is "constitutionally protected," according to the Los Angeles Times; however, the ACLU is not currently listed in opposition, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed.

"We'll review the final amendments once they've been made and decide on a position, if any, then," said Shanelle Matthews, communications strategist for the ACLU of Northern California.

Here's the text of the revenge porn bill, SB255:

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.