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California Passes FLASH Act

The California State Senate has passed legislation to ban the transmission of unsolicited sexually explicit images and videos without the recipient’s consent – a practice called ‘cyber flashing.’

Senate Bill 53, also known as the FLASH (Forbid Lewd Activity and Sexual Harassment) Act, was passed on Monday with bipartisan support.

Introduced in February 2020 by senators Connie Leyva and Lena Gonzalez, the legislation would establish legal protections for users of technology who receive explicit sexual consent, which they have not requested.

SB 53 would give victims of cyber flashing a private right of action against any person who knows or reasonably should know that a lewd image they sent was unsolicited. The bill would entitle the plaintiff to recover economic and non-economic damages or statutory damages between $1500 and $30,000, as well as punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs and other available relief, including injunctive relief.

“I appreciate the Senate’s support of SB 53 as we are now one step closer to finally holding perpetrators of cyber flashing accountable for their abusive behavior and actions,” Senator Leyva said. 

“This form of technology-based sexual harassment is far more pervasive than many Californians realize, so it is important that we empower survivors that receive these unwanted images or videos.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of young American women and 37% of young American men have been sent unsolicited explicit material while online. Most women who received uncalled for X-rated content reported being sent this material through social media platforms, including Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. 

Cyber flashing also occurs via dating platforms, text messages, email and through the ‘AirDropping’ of content in public spaces.

The FLASH Act has the support of the dating app Bumble, whose CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd sees a need for stronger laws to protect internet users.

“An overwhelming majority of our time is spent online and there are simply not enough laws and deterrents in place to protect us, and women and children in particular,” said Wolfe Herd.

“It falls upon us in the technology and social media space to work hand in hand with local government and legislators to isolate the problems and develop solutions just like the FLASH Act being introduced by Senator Leyva.”

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