October 15, 2015 


City News Service 


California Attorney General Kamala Harris unveiled an online resource in Los Angeles Wednesday providing information for victims, the tech industry and law enforcement agencies to help combat cyber exploitation — commonly known as “revenge porn.” The distribution of sexually explicit photos or videos online without the subject’s consent exists in a legal gray area throughout much of the country, where victims often have few options for recourse and perpetrators often go unpunished. Harris said she hopes to change that perception.


Revenge porn can have dramatic consequences for victims — from harming their careers and reputations to intimidating them into silence or putting them directly in harm’s way, the AG said at a downtown Los Angles news conference.


“Posting intimate images online without consent is a cowardly crime that humiliates and belittles victims,” she said. “These new tools will assist law enforcement in combating cyber exploitation and support victims in seeking justice.”


The online resource “hub” — at www.oag.ca.gov/cyberexploitation — aims to help empower victims with information on how to have images that were posted without permission removed from popular websites and search engines, and provide clear guidance to local law enforcement about laws to investigate and prosecute cyber exploitation cases. The site will also include guidelines for technology companies to help them develop policies that prevent the posting and sharing of cyber exploitation images. Designed as a “one-stop-shop” for law enforcement, victims and technology companies, the site will include information graphics with steps individuals can take after being a victim of cyber exploitation, and the first-ever comprehensive collection of major technology platforms’ privacy policies and links to report improper use of intimate images and how to have them removed from social media sites and online search engines.


Harris said tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft have agreed to revise or update their policies in dealing with victims of cyber exploitation.


“Sharing intimate images of someone without their consent can be both devastating and dangerous for the victim,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety policy, said. “Such activity is not allowed on Facebook and we are proud to support Attorney General Harris’ anti-cyber exploitation initiative to raise awareness of this abhorrent practice and promote tools to fight it.”


Calling the website “a major milestone in the fight against cyber exploitation,” law professor and author Danielle Citron said she hopes the resource acts as a model for other states to follow.


“In my research, I’ve interviewed more than 50 exploitation victims,” said Citron, author of the book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” describing the effects of the crime on victims as “devastating.”


“Victims had a hard time finding employment because their nude images and contact information appeared prominently in online searches,” Citron said.


“They were terrified that strangers would confront them in person. They moved, some changed their names — all were distraught.”


In tandem with the introduction of the anti-cyber exploitation initiative, Harris issued a Law Enforcement Bulletin, with instructions for the state’s law enforcement agencies on how to use and enforce new and existing laws related to cyber exploitation crimes. This past legislative session, the AG sponsored two bills to enable more effective prosecution of cyber exploitation crimes. AB 1310, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, expands the jurisdictional options for prosecuting cyber exploitation cases and allows law enforcement to use a search warrant to investigate cyber exploitation cases.


SB 676, sponsored by state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, adds cyber exploitation to the list of computer crimes eligible for forfeiture and destruction of property as part of a judgment and provides law enforcement with a process for seizing and destroying cyber exploitation images. Both laws were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and become effective Jan. 1. The initiative will also include a digital campaign using the Twitter hashtag #EndCyberExploitation, to raise awareness of the crime and connect victims with resources.


John Doherty, vice president of state policy and general counsel at the Microsoft web portal TechNet, said that while the Internet has brought countless positive changes to society, “there is a dark side.”


“We must remain vigilant in the effort to protect Internet users from this type of terrible and troubling cyber exploitation,” he said. “This is a crime that violates the victim on the most personal and private level possible.”

Category: News