50 State Project

Victims of the nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images (as well as other forms of online harassment) may pursue both criminal and civil remedies against their harassers.

Criminal remedies involve the filing of a complaint with the police or FBI (depending on the severity of the conduct), and then working with the state prosecutor (usually a District Attorney) or federal prosecutor (a U.S. Attorney) and their victims' advocates to see whether the government might pursue criminal charges on behalf of the people.

Civil remedies involve the hiring of an attorney to pursue a restraining order and/or lawsuit against a defendant for money damages and an injunction order (an order to stop the unlawful conduct).

Whichever way you choose to proceed (and you could pursue both strategies at the same time), there are two questions victims should ask. (1) How can I pursue an action against the perpetrator using a pseudonym (i.e., appearing in publicly filed documents as Jane Doe or John Doe) so that the public court records are not used to exacerbate my harm and make my life worse through online search results? (2) What laws are being broken by the perpetrator?

WMC's 50 State Project provides some tools to get you started in answering these questions. First, for each jurisdiction in the U.S., information on how to file a lawsuit using a pseudonym (a so-called "doe plaintiff" lawsuit) in federal and state court is explained under the heading "Filing Under A Pseudonym". Second, you will find an overview of the various civil and criminal claims in Federal law and in each of the 50 states that might be available to victims of online invasions of privacy.

Please Consider A Donation

It is our goal to complete the substantive content for each and every state in the United States by the end of 2014. If you would like to see this research published, please consider making a donation. While the research is being conducted by attorneys around the country who donate their time to this cause free of charge, it still costs around $500 to publish one state. We rely on your donations to make this research available.

Our Vision For The 50 State Project

To date, the "Filing under a Pseudonym" section for each state is complete and published. We have also published for three states the substantive research about the laws in this area. Further, we have assigned 26 of the remaining 47 states to associates at law firms around the country who are completing the research on a pro bono basis. (For an example of a state that has been published, please see California's civil and criminal laws.) We have finished the research for 13 states but do not presently have the funds to publish that research to the website. If you would like to see the research for these 13 states published, please consider making a donation toward the publication of those states. It costs around $500 to publish 1 state.

Once the 50 State Project is fully built out, it will provide fertile ground for academics and students to study trends in the laws, and breathe life into the conversation and solutions for victims in the United States. WMC is just a first step. It provides the core knowledge required for an informed conversation to take place

* Thanks to the hard work by then-students Claire Kelleher-Smith and Linda Lara, and the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law, the Federal and California sections have been fully developed. In addition, the research for the "Filing Under A Pseudonym" section for each of the 50 states is published here thanks to the work of Clare Tarpey, a 2010 graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law.