Online “revenge porn” gets a smack-down. More on the way?

California now outlaws some portion of revenge porn sites; Many wonder where are the other states?

Call it a modern day love story: Boy meets girl; they "like" each other; they privately sext naked pics of each other to celebrate; girl loses interest, breaks it off; guy responds by posting previously private pics to Internet site specializing in revenge; girl has little recourse, suffers much humiliation, ridicule.

There is a lot of pressure to change the outcome of such wretched stories - which seem to be pervasive these days. And some relief is on the way the way, at least in California where this week the governor signed one of the nation's first laws making so called "revenge porn" illegal.  Specifically the bill prevents people from "electronically distributing or post naked pictures of ex-romantic partners after a break-up with designs shaming the person publically."

[INTERESTING: All hail: Inside the museum of nonsense]

From the bill: "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.  A first violation of that offense is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment, and  a 2nd or subsequent violation of that offense, or any violation of that offense in which the victim was, at the time of the offense, a minor, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment."

"Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims," said Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), who sponsored the legislation.  "Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted."

According to a recent New York Times article, women who have been victimized by disgruntled exes have filed civil suits based on claims of copyright infringement, invasion of privacy or, in some cases, child pornography.   In Michigan, a federal judge last month issued a default judgment for more than $300,000 in a suit filed by a woman whose photos appeared on yougotposted. The Web site continues to operate despite at least four lawsuits filed against its operators, including one that alleges that the site published images of under-age girls. The alleged owners and operators of yougotposted have either not responded to the lawsuits or have denied the allegations.  The story details the troubles that have tormented one woman, Marianna Taschinger, who is now one of 25 plaintiffs, five of them under age, who are suing Texxxan.com, along with its operators GoDaddy, the company that hosted the now-defunct site, for invasion of privacy.

[RELATED: Massively controversial revenge site IsAnyoneup.com shuttered]

Only New Jersey has a law on the books that criminalizes revenge porn site postings.  There is pressure in a number of states to pass more stringent laws and some are calling for a Federal law to stop revenge porn activity. 

There's an interesting column from Slate here on the why revenge porn sites are even tolerated at all.  The column cites University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, who says that when people tell her they are against banning such sites outright they often start "waving their hands about free speech. But when you ask them how this violates the First Amendment, they can't tell you why." That's because it really doesn't.  

Continuing from the Slate piece, Franks thinks that the real objection to cracking down on revenge porn is that "we're still trivializing harm against women." Her argument resonates when you think about this question: Why can't victims sue the pants off the men who post these photos, or the sites that host them? For starters, because the federal Communications Decency Act poses all kinds of obstacles. For example, if the posters hide their identities - and most do - victims have to go through the expense and difficulty of getting a court order to unmask them.

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