California lawmakers seek solution to growing problem of Internet ‘revenge porn'
by DON THOMPSON
SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers are attempting to limit a distressing social media phenomenon known as “revenge porn,” where spurned suitors post intimate photos of their ex-lovers on the Internet for all to see.
The Assembly is set to debate a bill that would make such conduct punishable by up to a year in jail, while Gov. Jerry Brown is considering separate legislation that would make it a crime to impersonate or bully a domestic violence victim online.
The measures are forcing lawmakers to consider where to draw the line between unfettered free speech and privacy rights.
“Right now law enforcement has no tools to combat revenge porn or cyber-revenge,” said Sen. Anthony Cannella, a Republican from Ceres who proposed one of the bills. “Unfortunately it is a growing trend and there are a lot of victims out there, a lot more than I ever imagined. ... It's destroying people's lives.”
Under his SB255, perpetrators who post identifiable nude pictures of someone else online without their permission with the intent of causing serious emotional distress or humiliation could be charged with a misdemeanor. They could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense, with a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for repeat violations.
Current California law allows victims to sue their virtual assailants in civil court, but it is an expensive and time-consuming option that does not seem to be much of a deterrent, he said.
That was the experience of Holly Jacobs, who sent intimate photos to her boyfriend during their 3½-year long-distance relationship.
In January 2009, a month after they broke up, a friend informed her that a nude photo was posted on her Facebook profile. By November 2011, a collage of photos of her went viral on more than 200 websites, accompanied by an explicit video from a web chat that she says was secretly recorded. The posts included her full name, email address and the name of the Florida university where she worked, forcing her to tell her parents and university officials. She began getting emails from strangers attempting to set up liaisons.
“Emotionally, the situation put me through hell and back,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview. “I just felt so alone and you blame yourself. You have a lot of people in your life that judge you and say this was your fault. ... It took me a long time to realize I was the victim in this.”
She said she equates the judgmental reaction she received to the blame-the-victim attitude that rape victims often confront: “You shouldn't have been wearing that outfit, you shouldn't have been drinking, you shouldn't have been walking alone.”
After spending months trying to get the photos removed, repeatedly changing her phone number and quitting a university job she loved, Jacobs eventually legally changed her name. In her darkest moments, she considered suicide.
Then she got mad and she got even, creating www.endrevengeporn.org a year ago, which sometimes records 1,200 hits in a single day. Jacobs said she has been contacted by women in similar circumstances around the world.
From her home in Miami, she now lobbies for states to adopt laws to criminally punish revenge porn.
Aside from Cannella's bill awaiting action in the Assembly, lawmakers already sent the governor AB157 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, which would outlaw stealing the online identity of domestic violence victims. It lets judges issue protective orders barring abusers from impersonating a victim online, and came in response to the concerns of judges who worried that doing so would violate free speech rights.
Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, who carried AB157 in the Senate, said state law has not kept pace with technology.
“Advances in technology and the increased communication on social networking websites have enabled abusers to get around restraining orders,” she said.
The Legislature has attacked the problem piecemeal as loopholes have been discovered in the state's original 2006 cyberbullying laws.
A 2010 law made it a misdemeanor to impersonate someone on the Internet to intimidate, threaten or defraud them. Campos authored a law last year that lets schools suspend or expel students who harass their classmates on social networking sites, as well as a 2011 law targeting bullying on social networking sites such as Facebook.
Her bill this year was approved with no dissenting votes, while Cannella's legislation had just one opponent in the Senate — Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco. He and the American Civil Liberties Union fear the bill could interfere with free speech rights.
“For me it was more an issue of the definition being overly broad. We just really have to be careful of that slippery slope,” said Yee. He said a better approach would be to educate Internet users, particularly children, about the irreversible harm that can be done online.
Florida's legislature rejected a similar bill this year after First Amendment concerns surfaced there, while Missouri's supreme court last year cited concerns about free speech in striking down part of a 2008 law enacted after a teenager who was teased online committed suicide.
Cannella believes that's not an issue with his bill.
“This is intimidation, this is harassment, this is bullying,” he said. “This goes way beyond free speech.”
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the National Action to Realize the Dream March
It is an honor to be here – among so many friends, distinguished civil rights leaders, Members of Congress, and fellow citizens who have fought, rallied, and organized – from the streets of this nation, to the halls of our Capitol – to advance the cause of justice.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared his dream with the world and described his vision for a society that offered, and delivered, the promise of equal justice under law. He assured his fellow citizens that this goal was within reach – so long as they kept faith with one another, and maintained the courage and commitment to work toward it. And he urged them to do just that. By calling for no more – and no less – than equal justice. By standing up for the civil rights to which everyone is entitled. And by speaking out – in the face of hatred and violence, in defiance of those who sought to turn them back with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs – for the dignity of a promise kept; the honor of a right redeemed; and the pursuit of a sacred truth that's been woven through our history since this country's earliest days: that all are created equal.
Those who marched on Washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult road – from Montgomery, to Greensboro, to Birmingham; through Selma and Tuscaloosa. They marched – in spite of animosity, oppression, and brutality – because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept. Their focus, at that time, was the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the American system as it applied to African Americans. As we gather today, 50 years later, their march – now our march – goes on. And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment.
Dr. King's indelible words helped to alter the course of history, and his work provided the foundation for much of the progress that has followed. But this morning, as we recommit ourselves to his quest for progress, we must note that in addition to Dr. King, we also stand on the shoulders of untold millions whose names may be lost to history, but whose stories – and contributions – must be remembered and treasured: surely those who stood on this Mall in the summer of 1963 – but we must also remember those who rode buses, sat at lunch counters, stood up to racist governments and governors, and, tragically, those who gave their lives. We must remember generations who carried themselves on a day to day basis with great dignity in the face of unspeakable injustice – sacrificing their own ambitions so that the opportunities of future generations would be assured. We must remember those who labored for wages that measured neither their worth nor their effort. We must remember those who served, and fought, and died wearing the uniform of a nation that they cared so much about but which did not reciprocate that devotion in equal measure.
Each of these brave men and women displayed a profound love of country that must always be appreciated. It is to these people that we owe the greatest debt – Americans of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds who risked everything in order that their fellow citizens, and their children, might truly be free. It is to them that we must all say – in the most profound way – “thank you.” It is to them that I dedicate my words this morning. And it is in their honor that I pledge my continuing service, in the hope that it might pay worthy tribute to their sacrifices.
But today's observance is about far more than reflecting on our past. Today's March is also about committing to shape the future we will share – a future that preserves the progress, and builds on the achievements, that have led us to this moment. Today, we look to the work that remains unfinished, and make note of our nation's shortcomings, not because we wish to dwell on imperfection – but because, as those who came before us, we love this great country. We want this nation to be all that it was designed to be – and all that it can become. We recognize that we are forever bound to one another and that we stand united by the work that lies ahead – and by the journey that still stretches before us.
This morning, we affirm that this struggle must, and will, go on in the cause of our nation's quest for justice – until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices. It must go on until our criminal justice system can ensure that all are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law. And it must go on until every action we take reflects our values and that which is best about us. It must go on until those now living, and generations yet to be born, can be assured the rights and opportunities that have been too long denied to too many.
The America envisioned at this site 50 years ago – the “beloved community” – has not yet been realized. But half a century after the March, and 150 years after Emancipation, it is finally within our grasp. Together – through determined effort; through a willingness to confront corrosive forces tied to special interests rather than the common good; and through devotion to our founding documents – I know that, in the 21st century, we will see an America that is more perfect and more fair. I thank each of you for your continuing dedication to this cause, and your leadership of this important work. And I look forward to all that we will surely achieve together – by advancing the cause that remains our common pursuit. By preserving the legacy we are called to extend. And by helping to realize the dream that still guides our every step.
From the FBI
Serial Bank Robber --
Help Us Catch the Loan Ranger Bandit
(Pictures on site)
Over the past four years, a man authorities have dubbed the Loan Ranger Bandit has committed at least a dozen armed robberies of banks and other financial institutions in four different states—and he is so brazen he doesn't bother covering his face.
“We have a lot of good surveillance photos where he is looking directly at the camera,” said Special Agent Russell Di Lisi, who is coordinating the investigation from our Dallas Division. “Somebody out there has to know him or recognize him, and that's why we need the public's help.”
A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the Loan Ranger Bandit. Beginning in 2009, he has robbed banks in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Texas. His most recent robbery was last month in Temple, Texas at the Santa Fe Community Credit Union—the second time he has targeted that institution.
“He is a lot more reckless now,” said Di Lisi, explaining that in the early robberies, the bandit would give tellers a demand note and show them a weapon in his waistband. “Beginning with the ninth robbery and every one since then,” Di Lisi said, “he has actually brandished the weapon.”
Officials in the Tyler Police Department in Texas came up with the name Loan Ranger Bandit because the robber is known to target financial institutions that make loans, and in one of his first robberies he wore a Texas Rangers baseball cap.
“He usually wears different hats,” Di Lisi said, “but he makes no effort to cover his face.” Di Lisi noted that despite his lack of a disguise, the Loan Ranger Bandit is clever. He picks stand-alone institutions that offer easy access to major roadways—and therefore quick getaways—and he often targets the same banks more than once. “He's very confident in what he's doing,” Di Lisi said. “I believe he's going to keep hitting banks until we catch him.”
The bandit is described as a white male in his early 30s, approximately 5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet tall, about 200 pounds, with a medium build. He has short, light brown hair, wears glasses, and has a small mole or mark just above his right eye on the lower part of his forehead. His varied clothing styles have included athletic wear, jeans, and business attire. He may also drive a maroon Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with a white pinstripe around the truck bed. He should be considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached.
More information about the Loan Ranger Bandit, along with a number of detailed surveillance pictures, can be viewed on bankrobbers.fbi.gov, the Bureau's national website that features wanted bank robbers (see sidebar).
We need your help:
If you have any information about the Loan Ranger Bandit, contact your local FBI office, submit a tip online, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI. Any information, even if it seems small, may be the connection we need to solve these crimes—and make you eligible for the $10,000 reward.
“It's been almost four years, and he's still out there,” Di Lisi said. “With the public's help, we need to catch this guy before he strikes again.”
Our Bank Robbers Website
In December 2012, the FBI launched the Wanted Bank Robbers website at bankrobbers.fbi.gov , the first national system of its kind designed to help law enforcement—with the aid of the public—solve our most pressing bank robbery cases.
The site, which contains more than 200 wanted bank robbers from across the country, features a gallery of unknown suspects and a map function that plots robbery locations. Users can search by name, location, or other factors. Search results deliver a Wanted by the FBI poster that contains more images, a suspect's full description, and a brief narrative of the crime.
Displaying all this information in one place makes it easier for the public to recognize potential subjects, draw connections between robberies in different places, and contact law enforcement with information.