opinion

Involuntary Stars?

Alex Henderson

During the last few years, one of the Internet’s controversial topics has been “revenge porn” or “involuntary porn” — that is, websites that post nude or erotic photos of people (mostly women) without their consent. High-traffic revenge porn sites can be quite profitable, making money from online advertising (especially from adult dating sites). Yet revenge porn sites operate much differently from standard porn sites, which typically use content from professional adult models who wanted the public to see them nude and received payment for their work. Major adult membership and webcam sites, in fact, are often inundated with applications from aspiring porn models. But revenge porn sites are known for publishing nude photos of women that might have been taken by exboyfriends or ex-husbands, and critics of revenge porn have stressed that the women didn’t agree for those photos to be published online.

Some of the best-known revenge porn sites have included PinkMeth, Texxxan.com, Girlsxxxposed.com, You Got Posted, XXXpose.me and IsAnyoneUp.com (which webmaster Hunter Moore founded in 2009 and voluntarily discontinued in 2012). IsAnybodyDown.com, which was cofounded by Colorado Springs, Colo.-based webmaster Craig Brittain, is another major revenge porn site and publishes nude photos submitted by users.

My position is that I only have two rules when it comes to porn: (1) it should be of adults, (2) the subject should be in the porn voluntarily. If you break either rule, you deserve to get cockpunched. —Marc Randazza, Attorney

Sae of PinkMeth told XBIZ, “Revenge porn we know of nowadays was publicized with Hunter Moore’s IsAnyoneUp?, though his site was only directed at the U.S. and was created solely for fucking around and shaming among younger adults.”

Asked whether he thought revenge porn sites were becoming more or less common in 2013, Sae responded: “I wouldn’t say it’s more common. It’s just that free sites of this type exist nowadays, and submitting is easy — while they didn’t exist before, and people sold images of their ex-girlfriends/wives to paysites or simply shared them freely on a private board of a paysite. If you remember, affiliates made one-page sites with a story how their ex-girlfriend cheated on them, and how you need to share the link with your friends and click on the banners if you want to uncover the explicit images. That was one way of monetizing this type of content.”

Attorneys who have gone after revenge porn sites have included Marc Randazza (who has called for Brittain’s IsAnybodyDown.com to be discontinued), Texas-based Jason L. Van Dyke, Texas-based John S. Morgan and Denver-based Andrew Contiguglia. Opposing revenge porn doesn’t necessarily mean that one is opposed to porn in general. Randazza, for example, has represented numerous clients in the adult entertainment industry. Randazza told XBIZ he was not at liberty to discuss any particular revenge porn cases he was working on but said, “My position is that I only have two rules when it comes to porn: (1) it should be of adults, (2) the subject should be in the porn voluntarily. If you break either rule, you deserve to get cockpunched.”

In January, Morgan filed a lawsuit against Texxxan.com and Internet domain provider GoDaddy.com, alleging invasion of privacy, emotional distress and civil conspiracy under Texas law. More than two dozen women whose nude photos had appeared on the site were represented in the lawsuit. On January 28, the site was disabled.

Van Dyke has had an ongoing legal battle with PinkMeth. In November 2012, Van Dyke filed a $1 million lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Shelby Conklin, who found nude photos of herself on PinkMeth. After getting shut down at some domains, PinkMeth has reappeared at others; PinkMeth.com and PinkMeth.so (.so is the top-level domain for Somalia) were shut down, but PinkMeth.Doxing.me was still active as of Feb. 25. Sae has said that whenever PinkMeth is shut down at one domain, it will reopen at other domains and that “we can keep getting domains and even IP addresses.”

Van Dyke told XBIZ: “I am playing an interesting game of chess with the administrators of these websites .... The strategy is to use the legal process to target the domain name registrars and hosting companies. I have been a litigator for long enough to know that lawsuits for companies like this are expensive. When considering this fact together with the potential public relations nightmare that could result from the perception of being ‘in bed’ with the revenge pornographers, most see it as a business decision: it is far cheaper to purge the revenge pornographers from their servers than it is to fight a lawsuit. In the end, all these Internet companies want to do is settle cases like this. And my client’s settlement terms thus far have been very inexpensive: first, tell us who put up the website, and then, remove it permanently.”

Another attorney who has taken action against revenge porn sites is Ohio-based Kyle J. Bristow, who succeeded in getting Girlsxxxposed.com and XXXpose.me shut down. Bristow said that publishers of revenge porn sites might face not only civil penalties, but criminal prosecution as well—and one possible reason for criminal penalties, according to Bristow, is a failure to comply with the 2257 law, which requires porn companies to maintain ageverification records. “Revenge pornographers do not maintain such records,” Bristow said, “and so, their websites are arguably violative of this law.”

Supporters of revenge porn sites have said that revenge porn enjoys some legal protection from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). But Bristow said that Section 230 offers no protection if any of the people in nude photographs are under age and that webmasters could face child porn charges if they knowingly publish any nude photos of minors. “(Section 230) basically states that website operators are not civilly or criminally liable for user-submitted content,” Bristow said. “However, the CDA specifically states that it does not provide protection for website operators who permit child pornography to be published .... Revenge pornographers are arguably co-developers of the content on their websites because they actively acquire nude images and information about their victims, and then, they synthesize it into a package that they post onto their websites.”

Bristow went on to say: “I believe that since lawyers are aggressively pursuing justice for the victims of revenge pornography, the days of the revenge pornography industry are numbered.”

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