Revenge Porn: Taking a Stand

Life in the Internet Age has given rise to some pretty marvelous things: creating and hosting websites and other content via the Web; social media connections that forge global friendships between people who might not otherwise have met; and, of course, a complete archive of every meal eaten since Instagram’s invention.

Yet not every new creation that rises from the swirling eddies of the electronic sea is a wonder for the ages. The increasing popularity of a deeply unsettling phenomenon known as “Revenge Porn” underscores this fact with brutal clarity. Victims of revenge porn discover too late that their photos and personal contact information have been publicly posted to the Web without their consent. Some victims find their social media accounts have been hacked by opportunists looking to profit from the misery of others; vengeful exes with very personal axes to grind also exploit this trend.

It may be an online phenomenon, but the damage done by revenge porn absolutely extends into the real world as well—often with devastating effect. Regardless of motive, revenge porn victims often suffer deeply humiliating personal and professional fallout if their misfortune is discovered by their friends, families or coworkers. Losing a job or friendships only adds fuel to the fire and take a very real toll on victims’ mental and physical health. For some victims, even suicide is preferable to a life of continued humiliation and debasement.

The issue is further complicated by the very grey legal standing of sites that host revenge porn content. The photos (if not always associated contact info) have often been shared or posted voluntarily by the victims (albeit in very different circumstances and without the intention of public disclosure), making it difficult for prosecutors to nail offenders unless they’ve actually stolen the victims’ photos or hacked their social media accounts.

Several states have attempted to pass legislation outlawing revenge porn, but so far, only New Jersey has succeeded. The issue is clouded further by the legal impact on, and obligations of, the various hosting providers on whose servers these sites may reside (often without their knowledge).

Frustrated by governmental indifference and the slow grind of the wheels of justice, many revenge porn victims have taken up the fight themselves, lobbying for legal reform and filing civil suit against not only the people who posted their pilfered pics but the websites and Internet service providers (ISPs) who enable them to do so.

Taking a Stand against Revenge Porn-revised

Revenge Porn: How to Stop It

How far is too far? If you’re not familiar, “revenge porn” sites feature nude pictures of people submitted against their will and without their consent by disgruntled exes. One of the most popular sites, IsAnyoneUp?, even included the real name and hometown of each victim.

Fortunately, victims and anti-bullying groups have begun to take a stand against this atrocious act. We’ve taken a look at the impact this trend is having, and how you can help bring a stop to it.

The Issue

  • A 2010 FBI survey found that 20% of teens admitted to sending nude or semi-nude photos of themselves to someone or posting them online.
  • 1 in 6 teens have received naked or nearly naked texts from someone they know.

The Perpetrators

IsAnyoneUp?

At it’s peak, IsAnyoneUp? was seeing…

  • $10,000 (£6,000) each month from ad revenue
  • 30 million monthly pageviews
  • $8,000 alleged server bill per month

After receiving complaints from anti-bullying groups, IsAnyoneUp? founder Hunter Moore sold the site to Bullyville.com owner James McGibney for a “nominal fee.”

After the sale, Moore was ordered to pay McGibney $250,000 (£170,000) in damages for comments he made on Twitter falsely accusing McGibney of being a paedophile and possessing child pornography. McGbney plans to donate the money to a women’s shelter.

Texxan.com

Now defunct Texxxan.com is also under fire in a lawsuit alleging that creating “revenge porn” violates Texas state privacy laws.

  • The lawsuit includes 16 named plaintiffs and seeks class-action status for all the women featured on the site.
  • The site has closed itself to the public, becoming a “members only” site.
  • The lawsuit is now also going after the site’s host GoDaddy.com.

Victims Facing Extortion

  • A recent revenge porn site even included the victims’ full names and identifying information like phone numbers and Facebook snapshots.
  • To have the photos removed, victims were directed to a takedown service that costs $250 (£159).
  • Other revenge sites have been sued for child pornography.

Why Are They Getting Away with This?

  • Site owners and operators in the U.S. have been protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that online service providers are not responsible for the acts of their users.
  • The FBI claim that these cases are civil and/or do not threaten national security and should therefore be handled solely by lawyers.
  • Many attorneys claim that victims will end up with tens of thousands in attorneys fees without ever bringing the defendant to justice.

Victims Take a Stand

Angered by the lack of action by law enforcement, victims are taking a stand against revenge porn.

  • Holly Jacobs started EndRevengePorn.com where you can sign a petition to end revenge porn and learn more about the issue and the victims who’ve stepped forward.
  • Rebekah Wells launched WomenAgainstRevengePorn.com which also provides educational resources, victim stories, and a petition.
  • ScottishWomensAid.com is joining the movement and launching a petition for women in the UK.
  • With a focus on the publication of private images online, WithoutMyConsent.org is intended to empower individuals harmed by online privacy violations to stand up for their rights.
  • The Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a bill introduced in California, written by State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Modesto), that would make electronically distributing sexual pictures or video without the subject’s consent a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to a month in jail.
  • A similar anti-revenge porn bill in Florida, which would have made the practice a felony, was introduced into the state legislature, but failed to make it into law.
  • New Jersey is the only state to have passed a law against revenge porn after the bullying and subsequent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clemente after his roommate posted inappropriate video of him.

What Victims Can Do

If you ever find yourself an unfortunate victim of such harassment, there are measures you can take in seeking justice:

  1. Immediately preserve the evidence with screenshots, PDFs, or printed pages. Be sure to capture the images in search engine results.
  2. Set up a Google Alert (google.com/alerts) with your name so that you’re immediately alerted when your photos appear on a new site.
  3. Download all the photos and keep records of all the perpetrating links.
  4. File a police report even if they tell you they can’t do anything so that you have a record of the event.
  5. Submit a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim to the webmaster, search engines, and the web host.
  6. Check out federal (www.law.cornell.edu) and state (www.ncsl.org) cyber-stalking laws to see if there’s anything you can act on.
  7. Find a lawyer who is actively looking to help revenge porn victims (www.endrevengeporn.com).
  8. Get advice on how to cope or when to seek professional help at WithoutMyConsent.org.

Find more information and additional details for each of these steps at www.WomenAgainstRevengePorn.com.

Sources

  • Revenge porn is ‘just entertainment’, says owner of IsAnybodyDown – wired.co.uk
  • Revenge Porn: California Legislators Go After Troubling New Trend – huffingtonpost.com
  • Sex Tech: Ruthless revenge porn site posts young girl – zdnet.com
  • State Senate committee seeks new law on ‘revenge porn’ – abc30.com
  • ‘I’m tired of hiding’: Revenge-porn victim speaks out over her abuse after she claims ex posted explicit photos of her online – nydailynews.com.news

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