Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Leyva Bill to Ban Sending Unsolicited Lewd Pictures and Videos

SB 53 Would Hold Perpetrators of ‘Cyber Flashing’ Accountable

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) to establish legal protections for technology users when they receive unsolicited sexually explicit images and videos—known as ‘cyber flashing’—passed from the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier today. 

Also known as the FLASH (Forbid Lewd Activity and Sexual Harassment) Act, 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 knows or reasonably should know that the lewd images transmitted are unsolicited. 

“Cyber flashing is abusive and wrong, and it is critical that we call out and punish this modern form of sexual harassment that seems to only be increasing in frequency and boldness,” Senator Leyva said.  “No Californian should ever be sent a sexually explicit picture or video without their consent, and when it happens, it is important that we hold those perpetrators accountable for their offensive behavior. As Californians have spent more time online and on dating apps during the pandemic and recent ‘stay-at-home’ orders, the urgency in addressing this form of technology-based sexual harassment has only increased. I appreciate Bumble stepping up as the sponsor of SB 53, as well as the many legislative coauthors that firmly believe in protecting Californians from this behavior.”

Sponsored by Bumble—a woman-first, global social networking app founded and helmed by Whitney Wolfe Herd—SB 53 is the second iteration of this important legislation.  Senator Leyva 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.

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.

Legislators in both the Senate and Assembly have already signed on in support of the FLASH Act, 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.

Supported by California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs' Association, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, California Women's Law Center, Feminist Majority Foundation, Internet Association, Leda Health and Peace Officers Research Association of California, SB 53 will next be considered by the Senate Public Safety Committee.