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.”