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California Crackdown on ‘Revenge Porn’ in Brown’s Hands

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- People who humiliate ex-lovers by posting indecent photos or videos online could face charges under a bill approved by California lawmakers.

The measure targeting “revenge porn,” approved by the Senate last month, cleared the Assembly on a unanimous vote. The bill returns to the Senate to reconcile changes before going to Governor Jerry Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat, who hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign it into law.

California, a center of Internet technology, would become the second U.S. state to criminalize the act, though as a misdemeanor. New Jersey considers it a felony.

“People who post or text pictures that are meant to be private as a way to seek revenge are reprehensible,” Senator Anthony Cannella, a Ceres Republican who wrote the bill, said in a statement in June. “Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted.”

Under the measure, distributing sexual images “with the intent to cause serious emotional distress” would carry a fine of as much as $1,000 and as long as six months in jail -- even if the pictures were originally taken with consent.

Some revenge porn is an outgrowth of the increase in self-photographs sent by mobile phones, webcams or other devices. One exemplar of the trend is New York’s Anthony Weiner, whose online exchanges with women led to his June 2011 resignation from Congress and in July cost him the lead in polls for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

Self-Photos

The California bill would ban only images taken by the person posting them, meaning that self-photos aren’t protected.

Numerous websites have been created for ex-lovers to publicize images of former partners.

Holly Jacobs, a graduate student in Florida, became a symbol of the movement to criminalize revenge porn after her nude photos showed up online after she broke up with her boyfriend.

“It’s not OK that people are doing this and exploiting you just because you trusted somebody and because you shared intimate photographs in an intimate relationship,” Jacobs said May 3 on NBC’s “Today” show.

Florida rejected a push to make such distribution illegal, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Melnicoe in Sacramento at mmelnicoe@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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