Offenders of newly proposed CA sexploitation law would face hundreds of thousands in penalties

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- A tough, new California law has been introduced that would give victims of sexual exploitation a powerful tool to take down online images.

It takes aim not just at websites, but also sharing of non-consensual images on smartphones.

Victims complain that it is difficult if not impossible to get sexually explicit images of non-consensual activity taken down from online sites. A new bill, authored by State Senator Dave Cortese of San Jose, would impose hefty penalties when a victim notifies a site to remove them.

"A distributor has two hours to take down that content," said Cortese. "After that, an offender must pay damages of $100,000 for every two hours of online exposure."

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The Riverside County District Attorney's Office says it is seeing a big increase in sexual predators targeting children online during the pandemic as many kids are staying home during the day.

The penalty is double, or $200,000, if the victim is a minor. The bill is believed to be the first of its kind nationally to curb exploitation.

"It's about every victim being able to have the images removed in a timely manner so they can get peace of mind," said Sheila Pott.

Her daughter, Audrie, was such a victim in 2012 after being sexually assaulted. Images were shared online by school classmates. Audrie died by suicide a week later.
Sen. Cortese says his bill will be a deterrent for that kind of activity.

"Any person who has moved a digital photograph from one phone, for example, to another, it's going to trip or trigger the provisions in this bill," Cortese told KGO-TV, KABC-TV's sister station in San Francisco.
That could be a wake-up call for parents about photos and videos on their kids' smart phones.

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In downtown Los Angeles, a coalition of law enforcement agencies gathered to hold the 8th Annual Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium on Tuesday.

"The parents are going to start getting very proactive in monitoring what's going on on their kids' phone and their behaviors, and that's really what we want," said Sheila Pott, who is co-founder of the Audrie Pott Foundation, which sponsors educational programs about cyberbullying and suicide prevention.

The bill provides a powerful way for victims to fight back.
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