Twitter, Instagram Fail to Stop Shadowy Campaign Against Porn Stars

Twitter, Instagram Fail to Stop Shadowy Campaign Against Porn Stars

LOS ANGELES — Last evening, news site Jezebel posted an article analyzing an organized, ongoing campaign of targeted harassment and elimination of a large number of adult performers’ accounts from multiple social media platforms.

Unfortunately, Jezebel titled the article “A Troll's Alleged Attempt to Purge Porn Performers from Instagram.”

Jezebel’s headline is misleading for many reasons.

XBIZ has been investigating the general issue of corporate censorship of sex workers, the many stories about possible extortion attempts by rogue social media platform employees and anonymous associates, and also the specific case highlighted by Jezebel.

Referring to this targeted campaign (and the underlying corporate policies that allow it to continue) as "the alleged work of a troll,” is inconsistent with what we know.

What is actually happening is that for the past several months an anonymous person (or persons) has been systematically and deliberately harassing members of a historically marginalized group (sex workers) through at least two interlinked Twitter accounts.

The victims targeted by this campaign are almost exclusively women.

The Twitter accounts have been set up exclusively for this purpose and post nothing but tweets targeting their victims on a daily basis.

A Coordinated Harassment Campaign Across Two Platforms
This blatant campaign of harassment and intimidation is not limited to Twitter. The same person (or persons) behind it are conducting a parallel targeted campaign against the same performers on Instagram, with much more harming results.

If the Twitter campaign is meant to intimidate, the goal of the Instagram campaign is the elimination of an entire group of people, mostly women, on the basis of the type of work they do.

Through a Twitter persona using the name “Omid,”  the person claiming responsibility for both campaigns, obsessively boasts about their activities, in repetitive, ESL-level English:

“Hi dear. I am Omid, maybe u know me, if not I am who deleting pornstars IG accounts and telling them to leave the industry.”

Omid is a common Persian name but it’s also the word for “hope” in Farsi. This does not necessarily mean, as Jezebel assumes (they published an “interview” of sorts with someone who answered their DMs), that this is the work of a single person with a clear motive.

The harassment campaign’s real goal is intimidation and erasure, and it is essentially anonymous.

As of this writing, both Twitter accounts continue operating with impunity and Instagram continues to systematically delete the long-standing accounts of targeted adult performers, even when they abide by the platform’s rules.

instagram


The Methodology: Eliminate, Intimidate, Repeat
The harassment campaign currently intimidates its victims through two interlinked, similarly named Twitter accounts,  @Omid18097499 and @Omid180974999. The former account was set up in November 2018 and the latter in January 2019.

The first account has tweeted almost 900 times, not including replies to and interactions with its victims. The second account has tweeted much less and it appears to be mostly a backup account. Both accounts are exclusively used for the harassment campaign.

Most of the tweets follow the same impersonal pattern: “The official IG account of [performer name] was deleted with [high number] followers. #no_porn #no_pornstar.”

This is followed by an Instagram screenshot that reads “We have taken [performer name]'s account down. Thanks for reporting this account. We've removed it from Instagram because it violated our community guidelines. Your feedback is important in helping us keep the Instagram community safe.”

The earliest tweet on the first account was posted on November 28, 2018. The first victims were female performer and outspoken sex worker activist Ginger Banks and male performer Mike Adriano.

"Believe or not, I've hacked your instagram account, and u r not the only one," someone tweeted at Banks from a newly created account. "@mikeadrianoana1 is hacked too, by me! I can prove it! Just ask why?

The earliest tweets from the account taunted the performers into asking the reason for this "hack."

By the end of the year, several performers had been targeted and their Instagram accounts taken down. The December 24 victim was adult performer Christie Stevens:

"Yoohooo, excited to announce that @iluvchristie 's IG account has closed! I'm sorry about this on Christmas day [emojis] I didn't want to ruin your Christmas day! Anyway merry Christmas n have a funny holidays!"

Two days later, while claiming Goldie Glock as a second victim, the account posted that “my hack list is going to be a huge list. I warn u! U mustn't be on IG.”

“I Watch U”: The Disturbing, Clichéd “Omid” Persona
While the methodology has remained consistent and simple for months (report on Instagram, achieve deletion of Instagram profile, inform the victim by tweeting about it, repeat), the “Omid” persona relishes in playing a typical teasing cat-and-mouse game with the victims.

“Omid,” writing in an emoji-heavy, slightly ungrammatical English, comes off as a clichée online persona derived from Jigsaw from the “Saw” movies, or sex-obsessed, monomanical serial killers like Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer. The Twitter account bios and the tweets have a taunting attitude.

As Twitter continues to allow this campaign to thrive, “Omid” has stepped up his game with impunity and his “master hacker with a God complex” schtick seems to be validated by Instagram’s decisions.

On January 6 (victim of the day: Sheena Ryder), the account posted: “I warn all pornstars: u mustn't to be on Instagram.” The post highlights an interesting thing about the campaign: it targets Instagram accounts specifically. It does not target Twitter accounts, which it relies on for intimidation.

Both "Omid” Twitter bios describe themselves as “someone who pokes u!” The bios then directly address adult performers: “Hey you're valuable, don't live a cheep life! #say_no_to_porn.” It ends with a warning: “u should know that blocking or reporting me, won't help u at all.”

"Everyone knows about possibilities in this word," "Omid" wrote to January 7 victim Sovereign Syre. "u r just spoiling all values of humanity, all future of the youth, by your movies, with showing private organs of your body in public. No Sovereign no, u don't do these for humanity, u do for money, OK good so change it to modeling."

On January 12, “Omid” revealed that they had been monitoring a victim's reaction, retweeting a user who had posted a reply to Christie Stevens stating, “any amount of porn is harmful because of the exercise of lust. It teaches children to objectify and lust after women rather than love and respect women. Porn is anti-woman.”

“This is [thumbs up emoji]” commented “Omid.”

A January 15 post is a more blatant threat: “I warn ya'll who are contributed in the porn industry. Every pornstar, every porn site every porn photographers or even fans of pornstars, u won't survive! #Say_No_To_Porn #ban_porn #save_the_humanity #save_the_values”

The same day: “As always no pornstar, no porn website, no fan will survive.”

But “Omid,” like the disturbed real-life and movie-and-TV predators that obviously serve as the persona’s source for inspiration, is a hypocritical pseudo-moralist. The obsession with porn stars is a constant.

Last month, Katrina Jade posted that a producer had “changed scene info on me last minute, and because I said no to the new scene info, he cancelled my future scenes as well as punishment. Girls can’t say no now?” “Omid” replied in his version of “white knight with savior complex”: “And because of that I say pornstars live like a tissue! "Use them and throw them out when they expired!" why u don't think about your lives? Isn't human more respectful? Isn't more valuable? #say_no_to_porn”

This morning, performer Katya Kotenova received the following reply from “Omid”: “U should know: 1. Creating new accounts is just wasting your time, I'll delete them again. 2. Blocking me doesn't help u, I watch u!”

omid
Instagram and Twitter: Neglectful or Complicit?

It is naive to consider that this harmful (and effective) campaign is the work of “a troll.”

It seems completely besides the point to attempt to interview "Omid" or engage with the hodgepodge of moralistic obsession. The verbal villainy is just a facade the “Omid” persona uses to communicate and brag about the harm they are causing.

It is also misguided to classify this as a case of “online bullying.”

Whoever is behind this is a classic online predator (“no fan will survive,” “I watch u”), deliberately targeting (mostly) women to coerce them to quit their chosen lifestyle and field of work.

Moreover, the victims are part of a historically marginalized group. Sex workers, as even the Bible attests, have faced perhaps the longest and most consistent history of marginalization.

This is from Twitter’s policy on “Abusive Behavior”:

“You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.”

And this frrom Twitter’s policy on “Hateful Conduct”:

“We recognize that if people experience abuse on Twitter, it can jeopardize their ability to express themselves. Research has shown that some groups of people are disproportionately targeted with abuse online. This includes; women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual individuals, marginalized and historically underrepresented communities. For those who identity with multiple underrepresented groups, abuse may be more common, more severe in nature and have a higher impact on those targeted.”

Instagram’s policy on targeted harassment is unclear. They do offer this instead: “If an account is established with the intent of bullying or harassing another person or if a photo or comment is intended to bully or harass someone, please report it. You can also learn what to do if you think someone is pretending to be you or someone else on Instagram.”

As of this writing, neither company has addressed the many victims' complaints.

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