Senate approves Wieckowski bill to improve protection of cyber retaliation victims

Confidentiality provisions are expanded in new bill to prevent revealing identifying characteristics in court cases

May 30, 2017

Sacramento – Victims of cyber retaliation (revenge porn) who are using a pseudonym in their court case to protect their identity would have enhanced privacy protections under Senate Bill 157, authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont).  The bill passed the state Senate this afternoon with overwhelming bipartisan support and now heads to the state Assembly for consideration.

Wieckowski successfully authored a bill in 2014 allowing 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.  SB 157 expands those protections.

“These are very harmful and emotionally devastating offenses being perpetrated primarily against women and we do not want these victims to be victimized again by having their identities revealed through the court process,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “It takes courage for these victims to come forward and seek justice and these protections are designed to convince more victims to take action against their offenders.”

SB 157 ensures that if a victim is permitted to proceed in court using a pseudonym, 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.  

“SB 157 puts in place necessary protections so that victims can be more confident that they will not expose any further private information about themselves while on the path to justice,” said Christina Gagnier, a partner at Gagnier Margossian LLP, who testified for the bill when it was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “With more victims of online harassment and digital abuse emerging, victims must feel confident that our legal system will be a vehicle for stopping perpetrators of these crimes.”

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. 

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