New California bill allows recipients of unsolicited explicit content to sue the senders

Josue Torres
(Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash)

A new bill that California lawmakers introduced to Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday would allow recipients of unsolicited explicit material to sue the sender. This includes recipients of such material by text, email, apps, or other electronic methods.

The legislation targets “cyber flashing,” in which victims frequently experience such unpleasant surprises from complete strangers.

When the Assembly passed the bill, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry said that just as individuals experience these types of events in their physical, non-digital lives, there is a growing incidence of individuals receiving unsolicited, explicit images and videos, including from people they do not know.

The law was approved by the Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 76–0, and the Senate delivered it to Newsom on Monday with a roll call vote of 37–0. There was no known resistance.

Young women are the most typical receivers, according to Aguiar-Curry. In a study on internet behavior published last year by the Pew Research Center, it was discovered that three times as many women as males, or 33% of women under 35, have experienced this issue in an online manner.

In a 2017 research, the center stated that 37% of males and more than 50% of women in the age group of 18 to 29 have received unsolicited explicit photographs.

According to Senator Connie Leyva, who proposed the legislation, the unwanted information also arrived via a number of social media sites and dating applications. According to Leyva, the photographs were occasionally even sent to smartphones using Apple’s AirDrop in open spaces to unaware receivers.

Under the proposed legislation, receivers of explicit information would be entitled to punitive penalties, attorney’s costs, and compensation of at least $1,500 and up to $30,000 from senders who are older than 18. They might also ask the court to issue orders prohibiting such conduct moving forward.

After public defenders complained, supporters abandoned an earlier version that would have rendered cyber flashing punishable by a $750 fine for repeat offenders.

At the request of the dating service Bumble, a senator who had personally suffered cyber flashing first proposed a ban in 2019. The action followed Texas’s creation of similar laws.

The cyber flashing bill is the most recent effort by the California Legislature to prevent events of this nature in the digital era.

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