New Year, New California Laws: Cyberexploitation Protection

The California Legislature has broken legal threshold with the expansion of “revenge porn” legislation, added as a subdivision under the already existing misdemeanor offenses of disorderly conduct legislation. “Revenge porn” is a term used to describe pornographic content intentionally distributed without the explicit consent of the person or persons involved.

Some revenge porn legislation has previously existed, but as of 2015, the legislation has expanded to include footage taken by the victim, whereas before, legal recourse could only be applied to footage taken by someone else and then unlawfully distributed.

While this legislation is important, “revenge porn” is an inaccurate term that implies the victim has previously known or been in an interpersonal relationship with the person distributing their private material. Although the expansion of this legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, the wording needs subjective clarification. The terminology should amend the use of “revenge porn” to replace it with the more encompassing and descriptively accurate term: cyberexploitation.

Cyberexploitation defines lewd and lascivious acts done without the knowledge of the person or persons involved, while “revenge porn” assumes consent at one point in the vengeful ex-lovers’ relations.

The wording in the “revenge porn” amendment also leaves room for potential judicial manipulation caused by substantial vagueness.  Defined intention of the distributor uses phrases articulating a victim’s right to privacy as “reasonable expectation of privacy.” The term “reasonable expectation,” like in the definition of stalking, “causing a reasonable person to feel fear,” has left many people, either affected by mental illness or outside hegemonic reactive behavior, at the mercy of a legal system that potentially concludes their behaviors as unreasonable.

The verbally contractual agreement between a person engaged in the pornographic material and the person unlawfully distributing is defined as “circumstances in which the persons agree or understand that the image shall remain private.”
There may be future roadblocks in legally constructing what defines terms of understanding among persons involved in or at fault of cyberexploitation.

The existence and expansion of such legislation takes an importance stance against further exploitation of vulnerable populations, but once again exposes cracks and continued marginalization within legislative reform.


Tess Andrea is a fourth-year French and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at tandrea@uci.edu.