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AIM Closure, PornWikileaks – What Happened?

AIM Closure, PornWikileaks – What Happened?

July 27, 2011
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(This article is a timeline of developments and summary of the events around the closure of the AIM clinic, and how AIM’s demise was affected by the rise and fall of the PornWikileaks hate site. Written by FSC Executive Director Diane Duke, this story has appeared on major adult industry trade publications including AVN, XBIZ and YNOT.

FSC would like to take this opportunity to commend all those that took it upon themselves to help in taking down the PWL website. The safety and privacy of anyone that is attacked and bullied online is very important – even more so for performers in the adult industry that already experience the stigma and judgment of the public at large. Unfortunately, sometimes the worse attacks come from enemies within our own community. 

As FSC prepares to launch the Adult Production Health & Safety Services program (APHSS.org), we would like to say that we have worked with legal experts, technology consultants, industry members and healthcare providers to develop this system. Our first priority is the protection, safety and privacy of the performers. The best interests of everyone involved in production will be served by setting policies and standards that uphold these values.

If any good comes from AIM’s closure and the PWL debacle, let it be a lesson that positive actions can result when the adult industry community is united, and is pro-active in protecting itself from its enemies. United we stand, divided we fall. – jc)

PornWikileaks (PWL) Emerges

The first part of April, FSC began to receive calls from worried industry members about the existence of Porn Wikileaks.  At that point, it was still unclear from where the information came, as there was what looked like medical information as well as 2257 information. Soon we learned that it was likely that AIM’s database had been hacked and that some 2257 records may have also been compromised.

AIM in Trouble

Almost simultaneously, I learned, from a conversation I had with AIM CEO Sharon Mitchell, that AIM’s clinic “temporarily” was closed due to a “paper work issue.” Apparently, L.A. County had closed the clinic based on a filing technicality. I was assured by Sharon that the paperwork issue would soon be resolved, that the database was still up and the draw stations were still active. Sharon assured me that the AIM clinic would reopen.

Almost immediately thereafter, AIM was sued by two individuals for breach of medical records. I learned that the litigation expenses for individuals suing AIM were covered by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). AHF has been attacking the adult industry with frivolous lawsuits, CalOSHA and labor complaints as well as protests and misleading inflammatory press conferences for the past two years. AHF has been especially relentless in their attack on AIM.

Fighting PWL

Meanwhile, FSC staff met with producers, agents, talent and attorneys to discuss industry options for combating PornWikileaks. We discussed what channels we could go through to get it taken down and if there were criminal implications for those directly involved in procuring and posting federally protected data. We agreed that we would need additional information for any action and sent an announcement out to the industry asking anyone who was impacted by PornWikileaks (PWL) to contact us and give us the information. We contacted the FBI and began working with them with two goals in mind. The first goal was to get the site taken down and to ensure that it was down permanently. The second goal was to prosecute the monsters who launched these personal and illegal attacks on adult industry professionals.

AIM “Closed for Remodeling”…or Just CLOSED?

The next information that I received—just as everyone else in the industry did—was that AIM was closed for “remodeling.” This did not make any sense to me; if the clinic had been closed by the county, why AIM would extend that closure for “remodeling?” Sharon had also confided in me during our last conversation that AIM was in financial trouble so I doubted that it had the money to remodel anything. I tried to contact Sharon Mitchell to find out what was happening but she didn’t return my calls.

I knew that FSC’s Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas had been working pro-bono for AIM for the past two years and I called him to ask him if he would ask Sharon to call me. I knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t discuss any AIM issues with me because he was bound by attorney-client privilege. I think it important at this time to note that Jeffrey’s involvement with AIM was around First Amendment and patient privacy issues only and that Jeffrey had nothing to do with AIM moving into a “for-profit” business model nor any of AIM’s bankruptcy dealings. Jeffrey’s time was strictly voluntary and did not involve the business operations of AIM.

I told Jeffrey that I was concerned about AIM’s struggle and that I thought it would be a good idea to hold an industry-wide meeting to discuss “what-if” AIM did not survive scenarios.  He agreed and FSC held meetings with performers, agents and producers on Friday, April 29 at the Skirball Center. We asked these industry professionals if they would want FSC to step in and find replacements for AIM’s services should AIM close. There was a clear consensus from the group that they would like FSC to spearhead the program if need be and everyone gave input to potential program components.

The following Monday I received a call from Sharon Mitchell stating that AIM was closing and filing for bankruptcy. She asked me not to mention anything about the bankruptcy for legal reasons. AIM did not announce that they were closing and the “closed for remodeling” statement was still up on their website Tuesday. Because of the tremendous implications to the industry, FSC announced AIM’s closure in a press release Tuesday, May 3. Clearly, FSC was and is a completely separate entity from AIM and under normal circumstances would not consider it appropriate to make announcements for another organization but, due to the extraordinary circumstances and lack of communication from AIM, we announced the closure.

The FBI, AIM and PWL

When a bankruptcy occurs, everything in the organization is seized by the courts. However, in order for the FBI to compile the information it needed, it would have to spend significant time going through the database to look for signs of breaches. Because Jeffrey Douglas had worked pro-bono for AIM he was able to volunteer his time to gather information critical in reaching the goals of taking down PWL and prosecuting those involved. Time was of the essence and the information had to be gathered before the bankruptcy proceedings began. Jeffrey spent a full day with the FBI at AIM, collecting data and helping agents shore up their case.

Since that time, FSC has continued to work with the FBI—investigators from both the cyber-crimes division and the medical privacy division. FSC also provided the FBI with information it had gathered from industry professionals and we introduced them to Michael Whiteacre who had been working on getting PWL down and was able to provide them with additional information.

FBI agents asked that we not disclose that we were working with them until they were able to gather the information needed for the successful prosecution of anyone who committed a crime. Deciding, temporarily, to withhold information was a difficult decision to make. Ultimately, it came down to the simple truth that stopping the website will not stop the people, but stopping the people will not only stop the website, but also stop the potential for future attacks by these same individuals.

Once the information was gathered, a letter could be sent from AIM’s bankruptcy trustee asking the hosting company to shut the PornWikileaks site down, stating that PWL is under federal investigation. If the hosting company did not comply, the FBI was ready to send a follow-up letter requesting the site be taken down. They said that hosting companies always comply with such requests. The FBI had gathered the information it required and the letter was to be sent out last week. But due to the work of a group of creative hackers, the site already had been taken down.

The FSC will continue to work with the FBI to make sure the monsters that illegally and brutally violated the privacy and rights of adult industry performers, and other adult industry professionals, are brought to justice. Special thanks to Jeffrey Douglas for the days and weeks devoted to this work and to the folks who got the site taken down.

Life After AIM—Now What?

AIM is closed and gone, but there is a great deal to learn from the AIM experience, both good and bad. First, despite its shortcomings, AIM provided a valuable service to this industry for a number of years and it is important to acknowledge its accomplishments.

At this point, I would like to clarify a few points. First, neither FSC nor Jeffrey Douglas has any connection, power, control or input on anything that has to do AIM. I have heard that part of AIM’s database is still active. It is my understanding that if you had a test done at AIM and the link to that test was sent to you electronically, that link will still work and give you the results for that specific test taken at that point in time. I have no idea why AIM’s trustee would still have that portion of the database active—perhaps to allow patients access to their records. Concerns about this issue or any other issue that has to do with AIM can be taken up with their Trustee at the Law Office of David Hagen 16830 Ventura Blvd., Suite 500,  Encino, CA  91436-1795; phone: 818-990-4416; email: go4broq@earthlink.net.

Lessons Learned

This week, FSC will launch the Adult Production Health and Safety Services (APHSS) designed to fill in the gaps left by the closure of AIM.

Adult Industry – Always a Target

Rather than providing one clinic or site, APHSS will use existing testing facilities and doctors to provide quality testing and treatment to performers at a reduced rate. Performers will have the variety they want, and the industry will not have to worry about the AHF’s of the world closing down our services.

PWL – Anything Can Be Hacked – Don’t Put Performers at Risk

The program will provide a database for producers, agents, and performers to check performer availability. However the database will not contain medical information or personal information. The database will contain only the performer’s legal name and “available until,” so that producers can see if the performer has a current test and that he/she is clean and available to work. This will provide the producers/performers with the back-up they need to confirm that tests brought to the set are legitimate. Performers will still be able to have access to their test results directly from the testing site, and producers and agents will not have the liability associated with keeping performer medical records.

Listen to Adult Industry Members

APHSS must be responsive to the industry it serves or it is destined to fail from the beginning. We have created an Advisory Board consisting of performers, producers, agents, a medical consultant and a workplace safety attorney. We have selected the initial board to get the program off the ground but once in place the program participants will elect their own representatives. This group will review and revise the program on an ongoing basis to make sure that it meets the needs of the adult production industry.

Communication is KEY

If we have learned nothing from what happened with AIM we have learned the problems that come with poor communication. AIM sorely fell short in this respect and frankly, it has not been my strongest attribute either. The FBI asked us to hold off talking about PWL and to tell you the truth, I waited too long to tell this story. Looking forward, I will commit to writing more of these communication pieces as issues arise. In the meantime, if you have any questions or wish to contact me directly, I can be reached at diane@freespeechcoalition.com.

(Graphic: Some rights reserved by blakeemrys)


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