California Bans Revenge Porn

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Last night, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that makes revenge porn illegal. Typically, attempts by well-meaning lawmakers to legislate the internet don't end well. These laws often end up restricting free speech without actually stopping the activity they're meant to. But if you're going to pass a law like this, California's looks pretty good. 

The law does a nice job of very specifically prescribing what constitutes revenge porn. To be punished, you have to post naked pictures of another person without their consent. You have to intend to cause emotional distress, and you have to actually cause it: 

This bill would provide that any person who photographs or records
by any means the image of the intimate body part or parts of another
identifiable person, under circumstances where the parties agree or
understand that the image shall remain private, and the person
subsequently distributes the image taken, with the intent to cause
serious emotional distress, and the depicted person suffers serious
emotional distress, is guilty of disorderly conduct and subject to
that same punishment.

That's a nicely narrow definition of revenge porn. 

Also, the other perennial flaw to internet legislation is that the net is global, therefore laws in a particular place don't matter much. But the California law, if it holds up, could be a model for revenge porn laws in other states. And, if any state leads the nation in the unwanted release of sex tapes, it's probably the Golden State.