Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Tech Leaders and Advocates Launch Offensive in Fight Against Cyber Exploitation

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the launch of a new, first-of-its-kind online resource hub with helpful tools for victims, the technology industry and law enforcement agencies to combat cyber exploitation, the criminal act of posting intimate photos or videos online without the consent of the individual.  Today’s announcement is a culmination of nine months of work by the Attorney General’s Cyber Exploitation Task Force, a collaboration between the Department of Justice, major technology companies, law enforcement, and victims’ advocates.   

“Posting intimate images online without consent is a cowardly crime that humiliates and belittles victims,” said Attorney General Harris. “These new tools will assist law enforcement in combating cyber exploitation and support victims in seeking justice. I would like to thank our partners from our task force, whose work will have a global impact in combatting this heinous crime.”

Attorney General Harris’s effort is centered on a newly created online resource hub that will work to empower victims with information on how to have images posted without permission removed from popular websites and search engines, and provide clear guidance to local law enforcement about new and existing laws to investigate and prosecute cyber exploitation cases. The resource hub will include a Best Practice Guide for technology companies to help them develop policies that prevent the posting and sharing of cyber exploitation images. 

Designed to be a one-stop-shop for law enforcement, victims and technology companies, the site will include information graphics with steps individuals can take after being a victim of cyber exploitation, and the first-ever comprehensive collection of major technology platforms’ privacy policies and links to report improper use of intimate images and how to have them removed from social media sites and online search engines.

“Attorney General Kamala Harris's Working Group has set a major milestone in the fight against cyber exploitation today.  In my research of hate crimes in cyberspace, I’ve interviewed more than 50 exploitation victims.  Victims had a hard time finding employment because their nude images and contact information appeared prominently in online searches. They were terrified that strangers would confront them in person. They moved; some changed their names; all were distraught. The fallout was devastating,” said Danielle Keats Citron, Lois K. Macht Research Professor & Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. “AG Harris's work is groundbreaking, educating victims about their rights, providing training to law enforcement, securing essential legislation, and working with companies on best practices. The Working Group's efforts in California are a model for the rest of the country.”

“TechNet applauds Attorney General Kamala Harris' efforts to crack down on cyber exploitation, which violates a victim on a deeply personal and private level.  We’re proud that the technology industry has come together in support of this important issue to provide victims an avenue of protection,” said John Doherty, Vice President of State Policy & Politics and General Counsel at TechNet. “Over the past 50 years, the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, engage in commerce, and collaborate with friends and colleagues around the world.  Overwhelmingly, these changes have been a force for good.  But, clearly there is a dark side, and we must remain vigilant in the effort to protect Internet users from this type of terrible and troubling cyber exploitation.”

In tandem with the launch of the anti-cyber exploitation initiative, Attorney General Harris issued a Law Enforcement Bulletin, with instructions for all California law enforcement agencies on how to use and enforce new and existing laws related to cyber exploitation crimes. This past legislative session, Attorney General Harris sponsored two bills to enable more effective prosecution of cyber exploitation crimes: AB 1310 and SB 676. Both laws were signed by Governor Jerry Brown and become effective January 1, 2016. 

AB 1310, sponsored by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), expands the jurisdictional options for prosecuting cyber exploitation cases and allows law enforcement to use a search warrant to investigate cyber exploitation cases. SB 676, sponsored by Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), adds cyber exploitation to the list of computer crimes eligible for forfeiture and destruction of property as part of a judgment and provides law enforcement with a process for seizing and destroying cyber exploitation images.

The initiative will also include a digital campaign, lead by the Attorney General’s Cyber Exploitation Task Force, using the hashtag #EndCyberExploitation, to raise awareness of the crime and connect victims with resources.   

The Attorney General’s cyber exploitation website was launched in October to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Cyber Security Awareness Month. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), a partner in the working group, more than 90% of victims of cyber exploitation are women and girls. In CCRI’s survey of cyber exploitation victims, 51% reported having suicidal thoughts.

In January 2015, Attorney General Harris convened a task force of 50 major technology companies (including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter), victims’ advocates, and legislative and law enforcement leaders to fight cyber exploitation. The Attorney General’s working group on cyber exploitation is focused on four key areas: (1) education and prevention, (2) law enforcement education and training , (3) technology leadership and (4) legislation. This initiative is the culmination of this group’s work over the last nine months. 

Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes, and other crimes involving the use of technology. The California Department of Justice is leading the nation in prosecuting these crimes, having garnered the first successful prosecution of a cyber exploitation operator in the country.  Earlier this year, Kevin Bollaert was sentenced to eight years imprisonment followed by ten years of supervised release for his operation of a cyber exploitation website that allowed the anonymous, public posting of intimate photos accompanied by personal identifying information of individuals without their consent.

The new resource hub can be found at http://oag.ca.gov/cyberexploitation.   

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