Friday, February 21, 2014

Wieckowski Bill Offers Anonymous Path for Victims of Revenge Porn to File Suit

ASSEMBLY | 25TH DISTRICT | State Attorney General Kamala Harris has recently been hot on the heels of so-called revenge porn operators who post sexually-explicit images of people to a Web site for the means of embarrassing them. Often the sites turn around and request hundreds of dollars to remove the graphic photos, many of which once reflected the romantic moments of a relationship before it later went sideways. Harris’s office nabbed one such purveyor last week and another in December. However, these are criminal cases and attempting to sue perpetrators in civil court is not so easy.

Fremont Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski has authored a bill he believes sets a path for victims of revenge porn to file suit in civil court. “Right now there’s no clear path to a civil remedy for victims of this type of reprehensible behavior,” said Wieckowski.

The bill, AB 2643, creates a right of action for victims, many of whom are women, to file their case without using their name and, instead, using a pseudonym. Wieckowski says many victims are unwilling to file lawsuits against those who distribute their intimate photos and video without their consent, since their names and the complaint will become part of the public record.

“These women are often fearful of drawing more attention to the images and they need the option to file pseudonymously to prevent their names or identifying characteristics from being publicly revealed in a case,” said Wieckowski. “Unfortunately, almost half of the victims say they have been harassed or stalked by people who saw the images.”

In some ways, AB 2643 could be called “Nadia’s Law.” The former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer was the victim of a highly-publicized case of revenge porn in 2012 after her former lover posted two sexually-explicit videos of her on YouTube. In this case, however, Lockyer was a public official. Despite the distasteful act, free speech advocates tacitly defend revenge porn as long as it does not violate criminal laws such as, child pornography and stalking.

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