Senator Leyva’s FLASH Act to Ban Sending Unsolicited Lewd Pictures and Videos Passes Committee

SB 53 Would Protect Californians from ‘Cyber Flashing’

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Public Safety Committee today passed important 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’.

Specifically, SB 53—also known as the FLASH (Forbid Lewd Activity and Sexual Harassment) Act—would create an infraction, punishable by up to $250 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense, for an individual that knowingly transmits lewd or sexually explicit material by electronic means without the expressed consent of the recipient, known as ‘cyber flashing’. The infraction amounts above reflect soon-to-be amended figures in the bill.  SB 53 would also create a private right of action against any person who knows or reasonably should know that the lewd image transmitted is unsolicited.

“It is long overdue for California to hold perpetrators of cyber flashing—a modern form of sexual harassment—accountable for their abusive and unacceptable behavior,” Senator Leyva said.  “It is important that, as state leaders, we take a strong stand against this technology-based sexual harassment and develop legal protections for Californians that receive these unwanted pictures or videos.  SB 53 will empower both authorities and victims to respond whenever cyber flashing occurs, so that this behavior can be stopped before it further escalates.”

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.  Moreover, 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 houses of the Legislature have 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.

Sponsored by Bumble—a woman-first, global social networking app founded and helmed by Whitney Wolfe Herd—SB 53 is supported by California Coalition of School Safety Professionals, 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, Peace Officers Research Association of California, Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, Santa Ana Police Officers Association, Students Against Sexual Assault, and The Purple Campaign.  Ms. Wolfe Herd testified in strong support of the FLASH Act during today’s Senate Public Safety Committee hearing.

SB 53 will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.