FTC Slaps Down Revenge Porn Peddler and Other Signs of the Beginning of the End of Revenge Porn

(Cross-posted from Moving Targets)

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a complaint and a proposed consent order against Craig Brittain, the owner of the notorious (now defunct) revenge porn site www.isanybodydown.com. The complaint alleges that Brittain engaged in unlawful business practices by obtaining sexually explicit material of women through misrepresentation and deceit and disseminating this material for profit. According to the terms of the settlement, Brittain must destroy all such material and is barred from distributing such material in the future without the “affirmative express consent in writing” of the individuals depicted. The FTC has effectively declared the business model of revenge porn sites to be unlawful – a tremendous vindication for the victims of non-consensual pornography. CCRI’s Carrie Goldberg provides a nice analysis of the issues here.

Perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of the end of revenge porn. Today also marked the beginning of jury deliberations in the criminal case against Kevin Bollaert, the owner of another notorious revenge porn site, ugotposted.com. Bollaert is facing more than 30 counts of extortion, identity theft, and conspiracy for posting more than 10,000 private, sexually explicit images of people without their consent. Hunter Moore, the owner of the revenge porn site isanyoneup.com, is facing more than 15 federal felony charges for computer hacking and identity theft. Casey Meyering, yet another  revenge porn site owner, is facing several counts of felony extortion in California. Sixteen states have passed criminal laws prohibiting non-consensual pornography, 13 in the last year and a half. As the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s Legislative and Tech Policy Director, I’ve worked with nearly all of these states and am working with nearly a dozen more; I am also working with the office of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) on a federal criminal law to prohibit the practice. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative also recently teamed up with the law firm K & L Gates on a project to provide pro bono legal services to victims of non-consensual pornography.

While groups like the ACLU may continue to insist, based on neither logic nor principle, that disclosing private, sexually explicit images of individuals without consent is protected free speech unless done with the intent to harass, more sophisticated entities recognize that this conduct is unacceptable regardless of whether the intent is to harass, to make money, or to provide “entertainment.” Violations of sexual privacy are no more protected by the First Amendment than violations of financial and medical privacy. To exclude sexual information from the protected status of other forms of intimate information is to fail to comprehend the concept of privacy itself and to do violence to the concept of consent. Fortunately, it looks as though our society may be beginning to evolve beyond this.

 

Mary-Anne Franks: I write about gender bias generally and often write specifically about non-consensual pornography. I am the Vice-President of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (cybercivilrights.org), a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about online abuse and advocating for social and legal reform. CCRI is the parent organization of the End Revenge Porn Campaign (endrevengeporn.org) founded by Holly Jacobs. In my work with CCRI, I have helped more than a dozen states and the federal government draft legislation on so-called “revenge porn.”

Her name was Rehtaeh Parsons. by Mary-Anne Franks

One night in November 2011, a 17-year-old boy threw a party. At this party, he watched a friend rape a 15 year-old-girl while she vomited out of a window. Instead of intervening, he took a photograph of the rape and distributed it to friends. After months of tormenting by her peers over the photo, the girl hanged herself.

The friend who assaulted the girl was charged with distributing child pornography, but not rape. His trial is set to begin soon.The boy who took the photo was charged with creating child pornography and entered a guilty plea.

Today, a judge ruled that the boy, now 20, must apologize to the girl’s parents and take a “sexual harassment” course. No jail, not even probation.

The girl’s name was Rehtaeh Parsons. In 2013, her father wrote this letter. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking letter, and this passage in particular stands out given the sentence today:

“Rehtaeh Parsons thought the worst outcome for her case would be no charges against the men who raped her but we all know better. The worst thing that could happen would be charges. That they would be found guilty, and that Rehtaeh would sit on a court bench and listen in utter disbelief as they were given parole, or a suspended sentence, or community service. All for completely destroying her life while they laughed. Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.”

Her father is right. Those boys knew they would get away with it, and they did.

 

Mary-Anne Franks: I write about gender bias generally and often write specifically about non-consensual pornography. I am the Vice-President of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (cybercivilrights.org), a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about online abuse and advocating for social and legal reform. CCRI is the parent organization of the End Revenge Porn Campaign (endrevengeporn.org) founded by Holly Jacobs. In my work with CCRI, I have helped more than a dozen states and the federal government draft legislation on so-called “revenge porn.”