Senator Leyva Reintroduces FLASH Act to Ban Sending Unsolicited Lewd Pictures and Videos

SB 53 Protects Californians from Cyber Flashing

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

SACRAMENTO – In order to tackle cyber flashing in California, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) announced that she has reintroduced SB 53—also known as the FLASH (Forbid Lewd Activity and Sexual Harassment) Act—which would establish legal protections for technology users when they receive unsolicited sexually explicit images and videos.

The Senator introduced similar legislation (SB 1182) in February 2020, though she decided to hold that measure as the Senator significantly scaled back her legislative package to allow the Senate and State of California to focus on the urgent and ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

“It is critical that we hold perpetrators accountable for this offensive and intolerable behavior that is clearly a modern form of sexual harassment,” Senator Leyva said.  “No person should ever be sent a sexually explicit picture or video without their consent.  Though some may view this behavior as harmless, cyber flashing is abusive and it is vital that we develop legal protections for those that receive these unwanted images or videos.  Simply put, sexual harassment is never acceptable, whether it happens in person or online.  Particularly as Californians have increased the use of technology and dating apps during the pandemic and resulting ‘stay at home’ orders, this issue is as pressing as ever.  I look forward to working closely with Bumble and our SB 53 coauthors to protect Californians from this technology-based sexual harassment.”

Sponsored by Bumble—a woman-first, global social networking app founded and helmed by Whitney Wolfe Herd—SB 53 would create an infraction, punishable by $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense, for knowingly transmitting unsolicited lewd or sexually explicit material by electronic means. The FLASH Act would also create a private right of action against any person who sends unsolicited lewd images without the explicit consent of the recipient.

According to the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of young American women and 37 percent of young American men have been sent unsolicited explicit material while online.  Additionally, the majority of women who received unprompted sexually explicit images reported being sent this material through various social media platforms, such as Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  This behavior also occurs via dating platforms, text messages, and email. In some cases, unsolicited sexually explicit material is even ‘AirDropped’ in public spaces to unsuspecting recipients.

As SB 53 sponsor, Bumble noted the importance of passing legislation that will protect Californians in digital settings.

“An increasing 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. With the trend of more people turning to technology to facilitate social interactions, Bumble has seen a 70% increase in video calls on the platform after a State of Emergency was declared this spring and has seen nearly 7 billion messages sent this year. 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. There is a tremendous opportunity when it comes to creating laws that protect us in the digital world and our work with Senator Leyva and her office is a critical and very important step in that direction,” stated Bumble Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.

As a leader on efforts to protect women in the workplace and across society, Senator Leyva previously authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016, to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017, to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination (SB 820) in 2018, and to require the prompt testing of rape kits (SB 22) in 2019.

Several legislators have already signed on in support of SB 53, including Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) as principal coauthors and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) and Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) as coauthors.

The FLASH Act will soon be assigned to the appropriate committee(s) for consideration.