Governor signs Wieckowski bill to improve protection of cyber retaliation victims

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Confidentiality protections are expanded in SB 157 to prevent revealing identifying characteristics in court cases

Sacramento – Senator Bob Wieckowski’s (D-Fremont) bill to enhance privacy protections for victims of cyber retaliation (revenge porn) who are using a pseudonym in their court case was signed into law this week by Governor Jerry Brown.  SB 157 passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support.

The bill expands privacy protections put in place by Wieckowski’s AB 2643 authored in 2014. That bill allows victims who have intimate images distributed without their consent when there was a reasonable expectation of privacy to file a civil suit pseudonymously to maintain their privacy in court.

“I am pleased the Governor recognized the importance of strengthening protection of cyber retaliation victims,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “It takes a tremendous amount of courage for victims to step forward after suffering through these devastating offenses. In order for justice to be achieved, we need to put in place privacy protections that keep these victims anonymous in court as they take action against their offenders.”  

SB 157 ensures that when a pseudonym is used in court, the pseudonym shall be used in all pleadings, documents, proceedings, hearings, and in other statements and documents that are a matter of public record.  Identifying characteristics such as telephone numbers, email addresses, social media profiles, usernames, IP addresses and images of the plaintiff will be redacted or excluded. 

“California takes another important step with SB 157 in being a national leader in providing paths to justice for victims of online harassment and digital abuse,” said Christina Gagnier, a partner at Gagnier Margossian LLP. “Hopefully, California’s leadership can be an example that is adopted nationally, recognizing that our judicial system needs to be conscientious in allowing victims to seek legal recourse without further damage to their persons.”

A Data and Society Research Institute study found that 1 in 25 Americans have been victims of cyber retaliation threats or actual posts.  The images are often posted alongside names, place of employment, telephone numbers or other identifying information about the victim meant to cause ongoing reputational damage to victims, according to the study. 

SB 157 is supported by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Consumer Attorneys of California.

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and northeast Santa Clara County.