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California Arrests the Owner of a Revenge Porn Site (slate.com)
135 points by wrongc0ntinent on Dec 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 154 comments

You want to read a real story about this, Popehat is (as usual) your best outlet; he and Marc Randazza are coordinating an investigation of Craig Brittain, who appears to have set up a revenge porn extortion scheme using a fake "takedown lawyer" to enable victims to pay him to remove entries from his site.

Worth reading if only for extreme schadenfreude value.


Bear in mind that Marc Randazza is pretty heavily invested in online extortion schemes that're based around user content being legal and protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in general; he's primarily employed by a company that makes their money that way, just in a less controversial field than revenge porn. It'll be interesting to see his reaction.

Edit: for the downvoters, he was and is hired on this issue by a network of sites called ViaView Inc; most news coverage mentions their site Bullyville. Substantially all of the ads on that network of sites are either for other sites in the network - especially Cheaterville.com - or for services offering to remove "defamatory" content from Cheaterville for fees in excess of $1000. (For a while early on in his crusade, there were no other external ads on any of the sites and no information on how to advertise with any of them.)

That popehat link is a different person (from last year no less, and apparently no resolution a year later?)

I don't suppose anyone knows what happened to Craig do they?

Generally, he has gone to ground.

If the photo is a "selfie" why can't they assert their copyright and force the photo to be taken down with a DMCA takedown notice to the web hosting company if the site owner can't be found or is unresponsive?

The photos often aren't selfies. If they are, the process for getting them removed is still onerous, and their publication remains malicious and (in this case and others) extortionate.

In this interview Hunter Moore, another revenge porn site runner, argues that the photos are intended for someone (why else would you take the photo?) so the copyright is shared.

While that's not how copyright works and many of the photos on his sites were stolen it seems to be enough to hold up DMCA's.

The interview is interesting, I don't think I've ever heard an NPR interviewer speak with such derision towards their interviewer.

[1] http://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/335039

What happens if the site is hosted in anywhere but US?

Where ever it is, there would be local laws. Next,the US reserves the right to prosecute its own citizens even if they commit what the US thinks is a crime in another country, regardless of local law. On top of that, there may be an extradition treaty in place.

Then to stretch a bitter point.......

Failing all that, of course we know the US will kidnap.... sorry, "render" people.... All that's needed there is for them to define blackmail as a form of terrorism. Heh, then I suppose one could justify a drone strike!!!

If you need a primer for this horrible corner of the web, this is a fantastic and compelling article: http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/charlotte-laws-hunte....

Interesting read, thank you. Still I can't help but to feel that the most sad part of this is all the commotion over an exposed left boob. That's actually a big deal? Don't get me wrong - I can totally relate to her feeling violated as it should be in nobody else's power to decide how her personal photos should be handled. I just can't let go of the feeling that perhaps if we had a more relaxed perception of the human body, this would be no more than a shrug and a would spare a lot of trauma.

We will never get rid of assholes, but that apparently her job was in jeopardy because of this - and that this is seemingly accepted as okay as it isn't even questioned - was the real WTF realization for me. That is not the work of an asshole, it is the work of a truly degenerate society.

So long as there is a line in the sand of privacy, assholes will figure out how to abuse it and make people miserable.

And there will always be a line in the sand somewhere, unless we completely abandon the very notion of privacy. It just so happens that line happens to be somewhere around "nudity" right now.

So don't get caught up in where the line is. For can you not picture the exact same story in Victorian times? "Oh, but if only we as a people were not so prudish, to be upset about an ankle..."

Of course revenge porn is disgusting, but I think more people should stand up and make it clear that what makes it disgusting is not so much the nudity, but the lack of consent and the aggression/humiliation.

I could be mistaken, but even in Victorian times, I think many people felt that being bothered about showing ankle was dumb, but didn't stand up because, hell, "everyone seems to be disgusted by it, don't they?"

I still believe the media should start emphasizing how dumb it is to pester and punish people whose nude pictures got leaked instead of essentially saying, "ooh, careful with your nude pictures or they might end up on the internet!!!".

what makes it disgusting is not so much the nudity, but the lack of consent and the aggression/humiliation

Is that not intrinsically obvious to everyone? Is there anyone saying, "We must shut down Hunter because he is publishing nudity"? I thought we were all angered because of the lack of consent, aggression, and humiliation?

Definitely. But if you're not employable because your boob is exposed somewhere on the internet I would say that the current position of the line is pretty important to question.

What I'm contending is that somebody, possibly you, will always feel that way, no matter where the line is put.

There was a picture and personal details. It is not as simple as puritan values giving people leverage over one another, this family was left questioning how safe they were in their own home.

And her personal details being available online would be a more reasonable explanation for her job being in jeopardy?

I wasn't questioning or trying to diminish the violation or how she and her family perceived it. I was just sickened by the fact that it was seemingly entirely normal that her job was on the line because of the violation she was a victim of and that this wasn't called out at all. That is a violation not from a single asshole but from an entire society. While we may take the fight and perhaps score wins on the assholes perpetrating this, what is that worth if we silently acknowledge their line of reasoning?

"And her personal details being available online would be a more reasonable explanation for her job being in jeopardy?"

It was a more than reasonable explaination for why they felt physically unsafe. This isn't just about her damn job, they changed their locks.

Another "revenge porn" operator was on On The Media last week, and I've rarely had a more visceral reaction against another person in my life:


(EDIT: originally misattributed this interview as the guy arrested today; I was wrong.)

Really? I thought it was very humanizing and interesting to see the guy behind it all. He clearly caught up in the money and attention. Ofcourse he was a complete asshole, but he was self aware and felt bad about what he did. He is just the epitome of a troll - feeding off of other's misery. Schadenfreud to the Nth level.

That struck me as crocodile tears -- the telling moment for me was when Garfield asked him if he'd post pictures of his own mother or sister, and he reacted as if the question were completely absurd.

I decided then that he was either stupid, sociopathic, or both. In any case, you can't be sincerely sorry about that sort of behavior, and still do it regularly for fun.

The question WAS absurd given the context. He clearly explains right before that he does it because he enjoys doing the job - he enjoys trolling people, and he enjoys the money. He isn't doing it because he has some sick set of principles. He is NOT for instance saying that all pictures of naked people should be posted on-line or anything like that. So if he's doing it completely for his own enjoyment, why would he post pictures of his naked mom or sister? Why would he want to troll himself? Like he says, that doesn't make any sense.

The fact that Garfield didn't try to understand his motivations was what shocked him. Garfield's attempt at painting him as a sociopath was a wonderful piece of editing (and frankly defamation). Unfortunately OTM does this all the time. They feign objectivity for most of the interview, and then generally towards the end they editorialize in some small way so that they don't come off as sympathetic.

So, your logic is that because he's motivated by the enjoyment of making people miserable (without their consent), he's not a sociopath?

Garfield's point was that this is the thoughtless sadism of a cruel child, not that the guy is somehow worse because he's unwilling to inflict the same pain on his family that he inflicts on strangers.

Please don't misunderstand, I'm not excusing his behavior. He's not a sociopath because she shows remorse and cares about the people around him. The guy wasn't making excuses for himself. He's not operating on some righteous framework, which Garfield's question implies. He's not saying he's doing it because he thinks it's the right thing to do. He knew what he was doing was wrong and he feels bad about it, but he was simply enjoying it too much to stop.

If I steal a candy bar and you ask me why I did it and I said "Well I felt bad, but it looked tasty and I really wanted it". Asking me then if it's okay for other people to steal stuff from me is a dumb question to ask. The only goal of the question it to try to shame me. The awkward silence was awkward b/c Garfield asked a dumb question. It was trying to shame the guy and show some hypocrisy. But there is no hypocrisy. He's fucking people over, and making himself rich. The guy already knows he's mistreating others.

The idea that it's OK to derive fun and profit from doing to other people what you would not want for yourself strikes me as exactly a sick principle, actually.

How about dominatrices? Are they evil?

I think consent is the issue, not whether you would want it done to yourself.

Obviously consent is the issue. It's the releasing of someone's personal pictures without that person's consent that I'm considering to be the unwanted activity.

I would actually find him less malevolent if he said he would post pictures of his mother or sister. The fact that he won't shows that he only does it to inflict misery on others to make him feel better, not any sort of "porn should be free" pseudo-GNU bullshit that some of the other revenge porn operators like to rant about.

Yep. Was just going to link this myself, searched to see if anyone else had.

Bob Garfield's interview with Hunter Moore was haunting. If there's a definitional interview of a psychopath, I can't think of a better instance.

That's a different guy, and that's an interview from 2011.

Ah, indeed. I should have double-checked the name.

I wonder if he's going to pay $250 to get his photos off of mugshots.com

While 'revenge porn' is a scumbag move, women should be thinking twice when taking pictures of themselves naked (men too).

It's easy enough to send a picture to the wrong person, to lose your phone, to have your SO open the picture in a compromising social situation (in a meeting, public places, etc...), in addition to the 'revenge' scenario.

It's easier to simply not take the picture than to assume your ex won't be a douchebag after you break up.

Quite a lot of the IsAnyoneUp pics were perfectly innocent headshots photoshopped onto porn bodies. IIRC, there was also a batch of post-surgery photos from a hacked medical database. To be completely safe from extortion-porn sites you'd need to never allow anyone to take a photo of you, in any context, ever.

If people are getting attacked in the streets, warning everyone to stay indoors only redirects the problem. To really stop it, you need to find and arrest the perpetrators. Saying "it's your own fault for being out after dark" does not cut it.

"If people are getting attacked in the streets, warning everyone to stay indoors only redirects the problem. To really stop it, you need to find and arrest the perpetrators."

Both seem like good ideas, with the second of course being a higher priority, receiving more funding.

Universities in cities frequently send texts and emails to their students warning them of recent muggings/shootings at such-and-such street. That doesn't mean those universities think that those messages are "the solution"; thinking that would be rather foolish. They also invest in more security, assist police investigations however they can, etc.

In this case (http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/charlotte-laws-hunte...) the "Jack" person apparently gave the family some advice for securing their computers... that wasn't Jack saying that securing computers was the solution, or saying that the victims were at fault because they had insecure computers.

> Quite a lot of the IsAnyoneUp pics were perfectly innocent headshots photoshopped onto porn bodies. IIRC, there was also a batch of post-surgery photos from a hacked medical database. To be completely safe from extortion-porn sites you'd need to never allow anyone to take a photo of you, in any context, ever.

Did I ever say anything condoning revenge porn? No, just a bit of social commentary and a suggestion that sexting has gotten out of hand. And at least in a photoshop scenario, you have deniability to protect your reputation.

Extortion of course is a crime, and those who engage in it should be prosecuted.

> If people are getting attacked in the streets, warning everyone to stay indoors only redirects the problem. To really stop it, you need to find and arrest the perpetrators. Saying "it's your own fault for being out after dark" does not cut it.

I've spent time in countries where I've had to hide in the back of vehicles at police checkpoints, and where I couldn't let anyone know where I was staying, or go out after dark.

Where people were shot dead in the streets by police 2 blocks away from the house at which I was staying during a blackout.

While it's nice to say that you should be able to go anywhere you want at any time you want, when it's actually your life on the line you take the safe route...

Actually--telling people you don't want to be in a photograph is a start, but I have a feeling in our current narcisstic culture, people won't take that option. A note to dudes--stop taking pictures of your junk. A note to chicks--stop taking pictures of your food, and please stop tilting that jug head in every photograph; actually wiki American Indians and unselfaware!

C'mon. You're essentially accusing him of victim blaming, and you'd never do that if say someone suggested not giving out your social security number over email or using strong passwords for your bank web login.

Yes, we should find and prosecute people who do things like this. On top of that, it's reasonable to tell people to exercise prudence and caution. As long as the U.S. has a puritanical bent, and a sexist bent, as a woman it's giving a lot of power to a man to send him naked pictures of yourself. This is true, to a lesser degree, if you're a man as well (see Anthony Weiner).

Prosecuting the perpetrators and berating coworkers for their puritanical views won't undo the impact of their seeing photos of you with your breasts or penis exposed. This is just acknowledging reality.

It's not always women taking shots of themselves.

Long before she met me, my fiancee had an extremely abusive bf. He'd drug her then take pictures and videos of her. When she wanted to leave he threatened to release those pictures to her family. When she finally did (after he assaulted her and her parents), he kept his word.

I won't go into the profanities that accurately express my visceral emotions, but I think a law like this is long overdue. It's wrong that people who take pictures of themselves are being blackmailed to stay with those same pictures, but with the focus the media has on teenagers sexting inappropriately, I feel people forget there are others out there who had these materials taken against their will.

And I suppose women should also think twice before putting on that slinky dress, or walking down that street at night, or going out with that guy?

Victim-blaming is victim-blaming, regardless of context. The person who behaved wrongly in these circumstances is the person who uploaded the pic to a revenge porn site, not the person who took it, full fucking stop.

Ok, but what about personal responsibility in the real world? There is what we all should have the right to be able to do or , ha, ha, keep private (NSA, etc), and what is prudent or wise.

So, to exaggerate to illustrate.... It is a woman's right to walk down a dark ally in a dangerous neighborhood, dressed provocatively, how ever you define that, but, lets fact it, it isn't wise.

So, in some contexts, yes a woman should think twice about what she is wearing, where she is going or that guy she might be meeting. And frankly, so should men. No so much the clothes, but there are places I would avoid at certain time, and yes, there a some women I'd want to avoid.

As for "victim blaming", well, sorry, some victims are partly to blame, and should shoulder some of the responsibility. That does not excuse the offender, but it does have relevance. Both exist. And if you think that is wrong, then tell insurance companies and courts about limiting damage. "Was you car locked where you left it before it got stolen, sir?"

Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck.

Did those fucks make me any more correct?

> And if you think that is wrong, then tell insurance companies and courts about limiting damage. "Was you car locked where you left it before it got stolen, sir?"

"Rape Shield" laws are fairly common in the United States and elsewhere which prevents cross-examining rape victims about their past sexual history or submitting such things as evidence at trial.

This is done precisely to combat victim blaming and is much more relevant than your hypothetical "unlocked car" metaphor.

I think his point is that there are risk factors associated with choices and it's valuable to be aware of them and attempt to mitigate the risks.

Obviously the fault doesn't lie with the victim, but since the world can be dangerous it's important to be aware of that reality when making choices. If certain actions increase your risk (walking alone at night, taking naked pictures etc.) then it's better to consider that when making a choice in order to avoid potentially becoming a victim.

You're only in control of yourself - while we can and should strive to make changes to our culture and the system, that doesn't mean individuals should be blind to how their own choices may contribute to increasing their risk of being victimized.

Absolutely. We lock our doors at night, we lock our car doors, we do our best to prevent becoming victims. Not because we think it's our fault if it happens, but because we don't want it to happen because at the end of the day, it's our lives that are hurt...

If you want to talk about personal responsibility, then maybe let's start with, "Don't upload intimate pictures given to you in a trusted context to the internet for revenge purposes". Doing that is neither prudent nor wise, and is also an asshole thing to do. If we can agree on that, I bet everything else will be gravy.

Your example about insurance companies is specious. They aren't trying to apportion blame; they're trying to find any grounds they can on which they can avoid paying out. I'm also pretty sure that leaving your car unlocked neither excuses its being stolen, nor mitigates the insurance carrier's obligation to make you whole, in the slightest.

The dress example is misleading because I've never seen a correlation between rape victimization and clothing choice. Indeed,the example fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape.

Re: walking down the street at night... The moral righteousness of being right doesn't undo the trauma of being raped. We should be able to trust people with the private information we share with them, but people are assholes and we can't. All the moral righteousness in the world won't change that.

Re the dress example: true, but it's a broadly understood sigil for victim-blaming, which is the issue under discussion, not which specific excuse a notional rapist might use.

And yeah, moral righteousness doesn't undo trauma, but that's, again, completely orthogonal to victim-blaming.

Net, your comment seems like a bunch of "technically correct is the best correct" and not much else.

> Re the dress example: true, but it's a broadly understood sigil for victim-blaming

You're missing the essential significance of the dress example. It's broadly understood to be a sigil for victim-blaming precisely because it's totally disconnected from the actual nature of rape and won't actually reduce your risk of rape. Therefore, it's presumed to be pretext. But that doesn't mean that every advice to exercise caution is pretext for victim-blaming.

> And yeah, moral righteousness doesn't undo trauma, but that's, again, completely orthogonal to victim-blaming.

You're the one who brought up victim-blaming, in response to post that simply gave cautionary advice. Telling someone to exercise caution, because being right doesn't undo the trauma of victimization, is also orthogonal to victim-blaming.

Let's recap:

"You deserve to be victimized because you took that photo/used a weak password/gave out your SSN over e-mail" is victim-blaming.

"Be careful who you give nude photos to/use a strong password/don't give out your SSN over e-mail" is cautionary advice that is orthogonal to victim-blaming.

More to the point, saying that the world should be a certain way does not make it that way. You should be able to drive on New Years Eve without being victimized by a drunk driver. But the world is not that way and it's prudent to exercise extra caution on holidays because there are more drunk drivers on the road. You should be able to walk down the streets of Wilmington, DE without being mugged. But the world is not that way and I still drive my wife home from work each night. You should be able to trust people with private information. But the world is not that way and it's prudent to keep anything that could be used against you close to your vest.

Being morally in the right does not erase the trauma of victimization, and giving advice that might reduce the chance of victimization is not automatically pretext for victim-blaming.

> And I suppose women should also think twice before putting on that slinky dress, or walking down that street at night, or going out with that guy? Victim-blaming is victim-blaming, regardless of context. The person who behaved wrongly in these circumstances is the person who uploaded the pic to a revenge porn site, not the person who took it, full fucking stop.

Yes, if only things were so cut and dry. I won't disagree that the person who behaved wrongly was the person who put the photo on the site, just as I would never say it's a rape victim's fault they got raped, or someone's fault they were murdered.

That being said, we don't live in a perfect world or society, and we should take reasonable precautions.

It's all good to tell the police to do their fucking job and protect citizens, but I've been in places where you simply don't go out at night, where the police will rob you and leave your body in a field, and where you won't even tell anyone what neighbourhood you're staying in... Where women are raped and have no chance of justice ever, where men are murdered simply for walking down the wrong road, or sometimes simply for living in the wrong house. I personally know/knew some victims. I don't think its unreasonable to suggest exercising caution...

Honest question: What's the difference between that and telling someone they shouldn't use 123456 as their password because it increases the chances that their account might get hacked?

It all exists on a spectrum: saying "Politicians shouldn't support $SOMETHING because it increases the chances they might be assassinated" or "Maybe gay people should just stop having so much gay sex if they want to stop being victimized by society" is on the other end, but the same logic seems to apply. It displaces the focus from the perpetrator to the victim.

Asking people to choose a complicated password [1] is a pain, but it's nowhere near as much an encroachment on meaningful freedom than asking them to not have political opinions, or to modify their sexual practices.

[1] I'd argue that our password situation is terribly broken right now, actually, and the fact that so much crime revolves around stolen passwords is as much an indictment of the technical systems we have as the criminals who exploit it.

> "Politicians shouldn't support $SOMETHING because it increases the chances they might be assassinated"

Powerful and/or controversial politicians always have lots of security for this reason.

> "Maybe gay people should just stop having so much gay sex if they want to stop being victimized by society"

Poor example. They're victimized for being gay, not for the type and quantity of sex they're having.

> "Powerful and/or controversial politicians always have lots of security for this reason."

Yes, and I'd argue that goes with my point. As a society, we never say "well, they sort of had it coming when they were a hack for the socialists/capitalists/whites/blacks/misogynists/feminists/whatever"; we condemn the assassin, and on top of that provide extra security to the politician. In the same way, if a woman goes out in public and gets raped (which is surely more risky than staying indoors all day), we don't condemn her for doing something that statistically increases her chances of becoming a victim of sexual violence, but condemn the rapist and, on top of that, try to build government policies and social practices that decrease the chance of her becoming that victim.

Good example, poor wording.

Why is this getting downvoted? It's a well-articulated opinion. If people can't handle reading terms like "victim-blaming" without lunging for the down arrow, they should probably stay on Reddit

I've taken the opposite, albeit extreme, approach to solving this problem. If I want to send a nude to my significant other, I'll post it publicly then send them a link. If I'm not comfortable with it being posted publicly, then I wont take the photo. If you go in with the expectation that the picture will eventually find its way onto the internet, then you wont be burned when a phone gets stolen, a cloud account gets leaked, or a significant other seeks revenge.

Naked pictures of me have leaked three times - once from hacking and twice from people spreading them. Why should I stop having my fun just because there are bullies out there? They can bite me, my ass, and the picture of my ass that's all over the internet.

It's also really easy to not upload a photo to a website. Blaming the victim is not the answer.

It's not blaming the victim.

It's simply stating that in complicated relationships where feelings are likely to get hurt and people do enact various forms of vengeance (women included), it's best to have a little vigilance.

Expecting that no former lover will ever act out against you is unrealistic.

The 'sexting' thing has gotten out of hand, to the point where kids are being put into jail for having photos of underage kids of the same age, celeb photos are leaked all the time, etc... It's better to avoid taking the photos than to try avoid the consequences later.

It's entirely possible to take a photo, delete it, and for it to still exist in a retrievable form. And if I want to take pictures of myself naked for my own information and entertainment on my own devices, that should be my prerogative.

Someone having their email account compromised is not acting foolishly - they are not acting. The hacker is. They're a victim, and by that point have very little they can do about it. Acting foolishly is not the same as inviting crime or violent acts; the victims should not take any blame for that - although they may seek advice to prevent or mitigate similar attacks in the future.

It's also good to start amending laws so that obvious bad actions are punished and simple ones like 'two 14 year olds with pictures of each other' are not.

Why is suggestion caution the same thing as 'blaming the victim'?

This is ridiculous. A very good solution to the "revenge porn" problem is for people to not cavalierly take naked pictures of themselves.

So, I take a naked picture, share it, sharee shares again, <step>, <step>, revenge porn upload.

I am appropriate in my action, and then the propriety drops as the chain goes on. But why is it unfair to say, don't take the pic in the first place and you can avoid what (may) come next.

The problem is that it has nothing to do with this story. Congratulations, we've identified one step (out of many possible) that people can take to avoid revenge porn exposure. Now what? The answer isn't for the victims to be more vigilant; the answer is the public policy step that eliminates revenge porn sites.

So, what I'm seeing is that if he had not tried to extort people by demanding money to remove the photos, his site would not have been illegal?

That would explain the charges of extortion, but not identity theft (the conspiracy charges went with the extortion).

The identity theft is listed in the complaint as "did willfully and unlawfully obtain personal identifying information of Jane Doe #1 and used that information for an unlawful purpose to wit, to harass and annoy, without the consent of Jane Doe", about 25 separate counts. It's not quite clear to me what behaviour this covers, but I think it's adding identifying info to the photos - and if just that was illegal, that would be a pretty good change it sounds like.

Correct. Or, at least, it would not have been "as illegal"; you could still fall afoul of specific state laws targeting the practice directly. But (as usual) where you run into real trouble is in monetizing the practice.

I expect (hope) that child pornography distribution will be added to the charges as they build the case.

Libel too presumably, in the cases of the photoshops^Wimages manipulated by Adobe Photoshop(R)

Libel isn't (generally) criminal; it would be up to the people involved to take such a suit, and most probably wouldn't have the means to do so.

You also need to prove that the perpetrator knew the images were fakes, which is usually pretty difficult.

It would still have been illegal, but probably not criminal. (I.e., it would have been a tort rather than a crime.) However, in some states, and in many nations, it would still have been a crime.

Good. Everyone who owns, works for, frequents or defends these sites is a sociopath and a failure as a human being.

That’s why I’m standing with Hunter Moore. He’s a great big jerk, but he needs to have the right to post facts that politically powerful people like Charlotte Laws want to keep hidden

What about facts like her home address, home telephone number, and social security number? Does Moore need the right to publish those things if she wants to keep them private?

Newspapers occasionally publish these things - see the recent example of an upstate NY newspaper digging up the addresses of gun owners. Or see the nyt widely publicizing the location of the new Goldman Sachs HQ, something that was nominally private.

(I say "nominally" because like the address of assorted gun owners and revenge porn victims, these things are a matter of public record.)

Send the editors to jail?

The cultural outcome of this someday is going to be that everyone has had their sex exposed somewhere, so it stops being a big deal. Like all sorts of other previously taboo topics. That day will be far better.

Its great that the power of the law is currently being directed at great big jerks, but do we really think it will stay this way?

These revenge porn sites are journalism. And apparently we are all now cheering the government as it shuts down publications whose motives and views we disagree with.


What isn't journalism by this definition? The simple response to your question is that if "journalism" has the nearly-useless definition you're providing, then "journalism" simply doesn't get to receive deference from public policy.

Candidly: the publication of the Weiner "selfies" wasn't a high water mark for "journalism" anyways. Media outlets could have authenticated the photos and then published the simple facts of what had happened. Instead, those outlets applied their own morals and judgement to the situation, made their own decision that Weiner was an asshole, and punished him by repeatedly and gratuitously humiliating him. Maybe that shouldn't have been O.K. The public interest in the actual photos was, let's be honest, pornographic.

Is releasing anthony Weiner's selfies not journalism? That's revenge porn by any reasonable definition.

I would say that releasing true facts about people with documentary evidence is journalism. What else would it be?

(1) Maybe not.

(2) If it is, so what? If any kind of publication is "journalism", than "journalism" isn't a free pass.

The reality is that to the extent that lascivious photos are "journalism", then we recognize different degrees of "journalism"; it's not a binary state.

So, if it isn't journalism (and I agree that the claim is tenuous), isn't it still free speech? Journalism isn't the only form of speech that falls under first amendment protections.

Moreover, between laws against theft, and laws against copyright violation, I'm unsure how this isn't a solved problem, or why "revenge porn" sites are deserving of special legislation.

Casting an action as "speech" doesn't give you a free pass; fraud is also speech, as is libel. The rights enumerated in the Constitution conflict with each other; they were self-evidently incoherent when they were ratified, and the expectation has always been that those conflicts would need to be adjudicated by the Judiciary.

What is true is that speech and expression must receive enormous deference, and what is also generally believed to be true is that the content and ideas animating speech can't be the basis for allowing or denying it.

Well, right, but this isn't fraud, or libel, or sedition, or (to my knowledge) child porn, or anything necessarily cast as an unprotected form of speech.

It could potentially be categorized as 'obscene', but that's true (or false) of a given image regardless of how it was obtained or how it's distributed. If porn sites are still legal in the state of California (they are, right?), then so should images on this site be. If they're being displayed unlawfully, on grounds that they were illegal obtained, or are being illegally distributed, then I don't understand why a successful prosecution couldn't be had on those grounds already.

The specific case we're talking about here is legally simple. The charge is extortion. In California, the elements of extortion are 0. the victim has property (here money), 1. (the 1C variant) the accused threatened to expose a secret connecting the victim with disgrace, a crime, or deformity, 2. the accused did so with the intent of coercing the victim, 3. the victim consented, and 4. the accused received property as a result.

Different states, different extortion statutes, but the California construction seems to be a common one.

The crime isn't "speech"; it's coercion.

Similar dumbasses who are more sly about extracting money from their sites might be undone by other simple legal issues, such as red-flag knowledge that the content they're hosting is stolen, or (as mentioned upthread) that the content itself is facially illegal, for instance because it depicts minors.

Criminalizing or otherwise prohibiting revenge porn sites on a conceptual level, rather than targeting the sites dumb enough to try to cash in, is a trickier issue that's currently being confronted by state legislatures; it wouldn't be shocking to see one of the resulting statutes eventually end up before SCOTUS, sad as that sounds.

Well, I get that it was extortion, and I completely agree that it's extortion... and that's exactly my complaint -- extortion has nothing to do with revenge porn.

From reading the Slate article, they mention the new "revenge porn law" specifically, and then list other charges. The contents of the site could have been anything -- credit card numbers, blackmail information, etc., etc., and the CA legislature would still have the exact same case that they have -- extortion.

I suppose I glommed onto your argument because I assumed (from your other post) that you'd been following it, but I think that the implications of a 'revenge porn' law didn't actually come into play here, which sort of makes whatever point I had -- that there's no purpose for it.

Whatever implications the first amendment has here, origination shouldn't play a part in it. If the images are obscene, that can be determined independently of how they were obtained or distributed. If they violate someone's personal copyright, that's an independent claim. If they violate local pornography statutes, that's again, a separate crime.

What it seems to me is that we've taken a number of things that were already illegal and drafted up a new set of feel-good measures that make them illegal under a different heading. Perhaps the net result is in sentencing, but that seems about as efficient to me as "hate" crime sentencing, where we'll end up with mandatory minimums and such.

Anyway, sorry for pestering, you just seemed to have more knowledge on the matter than the Slate article, and I thought you'd implied that there were free speech implications.

I missed this issue when I read the article, and you are right that it makes this particular case more clear cut.

But I'm not seeing other issues you mention as being relevant, stolen material in particular. Weren't the pentagon papers, wikileaks and snowdens NSA files all stolen material?

Wiener posted selfies to his public Twitter stream and then claimed he was a victim of 3v1l hax0rs. He made his sexy pictures in a matter of public concern when he spent $45k of campaign funds on investigating claims that he knew to be specious.

There's a fairly well-established distinction between public figures and others with respect to certain other areas of law (e.g. libel). The Internet admittedly blurs some of these distinctions.

These revenge porn sites are journalism

Nonsense. I read your blog post; you begin by asking readers to imagine an alternative reality where someone engaged in briebery is expose d by a journalist (despite the briber wishing that such activity would remain private), and then draw a false equivalence between bribery and exposure of one's body in a photograph. The differentce is that while bribery is a crime in most jurisdictions, taking a revealing photograph (or being the subject of one taken by someone else) is not a crime in any of the jurisdictions that apply here. So your public interest argument goes up in smoke.

You go on to draw a comparison with Anthony Wiener. But given that a) he is occupying public office while b) sending unsolicited pictures of a sexual nature to random women he encountered on the internet, that isn't equivalent either. There is a public-interest argument to be made about the unwisdom of him sending out sexy pictures of himself (albeit a limited one; I think most people were more offended by his persistent cheating on his wife than being a horny guy, and this might not have been such an issue if he was single), but you seem to have forgotten that the story first made headlines because he mistakenly posted pictures to his public Twitter account and then organized a wild-goose-chase investigation by falsely claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. This is very different some third party making public a picture of him that he had anticipated would be kept private.

Now I like a good contrarian argument as much as the next guy but this isn't a well-formed argument; it's irrational on its face and degrades the subject of the story in the process of trying and failing to make a point.

There are all sorts of legal acts which reporters write about and which others might like to keep hidden. For example, consider "secretive rich guy is a racist" or "person I disagree with took money from Koch". As a tech related example, consider assorted hit jobs on peter thiel, pax Dickinson, etc.

An act doesn't need to be criminal to be of journalistic interest. And a public figure is just a person that reporters take an interest in.

Perhaps, then, you should develop a new argument from that standpoint.

And a public figure is just a person that reporters take an interest in.

There is a difference between a merely famous person (eg Kim Kardashian) and a public figure like an elected official, in whose good behavior the public has an interest (as distinct from being interested in it in the colloquial sense). I mean this in the sense of the word republic which is a contraction of the Latin res publica or 'public matter.' This is why private individuals enjoy a right of publicity to their own likeness and copyright protection for their public performances, but the identity and doings of legislators and government officials (within the scope of their official activities) are in the public domain.

Something being a crime or not is the line you chose, not yummyfajitas, he doesn't need to change his argument to pick a corner case just for you.

It is not journalism to hack people's computers, steal their stuff and pit it online.

You mean like the Guardian did after Snowden stole peoples stuff and released it? Or like wikileaks/etc? Or assorted other newspapers releasing illegally acquired information?

These are bad examples, because the legality of publishing Snowden and Manning's documents was in fact legally tenuous, and so far the publishers of the documents are protected largely by the enormous public welfare implications of the documents themselves. Especially in Snowden's case, that could change. Wait 6 months and see if the Snowden trove results in operationally relevant serious foreign intelligence disclosures that don't implicate the rights of US citizens, and then we'll see how much "journalism" really is a free pass to publishing "anything".

Nation states are not people.

When did The Guardian, WikiLeaks, NYT etc hack or steal anything? This is new to me

But in most cases, nobody was "hacked" at all. The photos were distributed, without limitation, to 1 or more people by the actual subject of the photos.

That's not true. There was an article that recently crossed the front page of HN by a victim of one of these sites, and her research revealed that a large fraction (possibly over half, I don't remember) of victims gas their photos obtained by hacking, not by a vengeful ex who already had legal access to the photos.

40% hacked, 36% revenge porn, 12% photoshopped, 12% self-submits.[1]

[1] http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/charlotte-laws-hunte...

I cringed when I saw "informal survey," but this seems to be in the important bit -

"In most cases, the scam began through Facebook and ended when “Gary Jones” gained access to the victim’s email account."

Unfortunately it doesn't make a lot of sense without context that I can't fine in the article. Was it phishing?

Sadly it's not very clear, and it wasn't a random representative sampling, but it's the closest thing we have to any actual figures right now (AFAIK)

I read an article a week or two ago about a mother that was a former private investigator researching the owner of one of these sites. She claimed that a lot of the women featured on the site had their info gathered by someone hacking their gmail account. I'll search for a link when I'm not at work. Don't really want revenge porn showing up in my search history here.

When has the media ever had a good handle on what "hacking" means and how prevalent it is?

Why would someone with the ability to "hack" a large number of gmail accounts choose nude photos to make their money with? I can't imagine the payoff is comparatively good and large-scale blackmail is a pretty good way to get targeted for prosecution.

Further, aren't these pictures in their email because they were sent to someone? How would the average person distinguish between their account being "hacked" for the purpose of retrieving the picture opposed to the receiver sharing it? It sounds more like the instinctual "my account was hacked!" response to something embarrassing.

What, you don't email yourself a copy of all your nude selfies for safe keeping? I thought everybody did that.

edit to add: wow. From the xojane link it appears that's actually exactly what everybody does. I'm at a loss for words.

To many people, email is how they move files about.

Yeah, I know. Done it myself. I was mentally filtering nude selfies out of the set of files I would want to move about. I draw a distinction between "here's a sweet recipe for chicken alfredo, better save this for later" and "here's a picture of me naked, better make a copy in case I need this later", but I guess others don't.

> hack people's computers, steal their stuff and pit it online.

All 3 of those things were already illegal, and had legal remedies.

How is revenge porn journalism?

I believe he means they are protected free speech.

Are you seriously disputing that releasing Anthony Weiner's selfies is journalism?

Retroactively calling anything that has ever appeared in the media "journalism" produces a sad and useless definition of the term. It turns out to be just any trash that media outlets know people will consume. An admirable definition would include some sort of discretion about (for example) the private lives of public figures, and not conflate information with journalism.

To the extent that Anthony Weiner's mistakes in his personal life does impact his job, which is in the public interest, that can qualify as journalism and separate him from the common case of a typical victim of these sites.

I am taking as a given that most people here don't want further restrictions on newspapers, and generally support free speech as it currently exists. My argument is simply attacking the distinction between newspapers and revenge porn.

If you oppose contemporary journalism as well and favor a more Chinese approach to free speech, I will be unpersuasive.

That rhetoric is lame. You can argue better than that.

Well yes it is ridiculous. If you want to blame this game of "everything is journalism" then probably we should revisit the whole notion of freedom of the press.

Freedom isn't and can't be absolute. There's too much predation in human nature for that to be a possibility. Reasonable lines need to be drawn, and nudging a line one way or another is going to happen sometimes and doesn't always need to be feared as the beginning of a slippery slope or invite sarcastic comments about whether we still have a free press. Deciding that our society is going to have a standard of behavior above revenge porn has value. If we were capable (collectively) of handling absolute freedom, we might have it.

Are you seriously making no distinction (three times and counting in this thread) between public figures and normal people?

Why is OK to humiliate a public figure by publishing sexualized nude photos of them? I'll hazard that it isn't OK, but that we kid ourselves because the cases where that happens, the mere existence of the photos is newsworthy. We conflate two different pieces of information: (a) that the photos exist, are real, were sent as alleged, &c and (b) the visual content of the photos themselves.

(a) is a valid product of journalism; (b) probably isn't.

We think (b) is, though, because one way that media outlets secure power for themselves in the market and elsewhere is by exploiting (b) to inflict punishment on the targets of their stories. They don't like Anthony Weiner (no surprise), so they're happy to torture him to get extra pageviews.

I think that cases involving public figures is more complicated than many people think.

Most of us would probably agree that paparazzi publishing pictures of celebrities naked in their back yard with telephoto lenses is not okay. Publishing pictures of Rob Ford smoking crack? That seems more than reasonable. Publishing pictures of Rob Ford smoking crack, naked in his backyard? I don't think that Rob Ford's attire changes the situation (does it really matter if he's wearing a t-shirt, a business suit, or his birthday suit? Either way, he's smoking crack), but how do you encode that in the law? I am not convinced there is a good way, even if we just say "lets hash it out on a case to case basis in courtrooms, then you have to consider SLAPP concerns.

Or, another way to look at it is that an authenticated report of clear evidence of Ford smoking crack is "okay", but repeated broadcasts of private photos of him smoking crack is simply torture pornography.

I don't know. Like you said, it's not simple.

But the fact that it's not simple gives lie to the idea that persecution of revenge porn sites somehow impinges on the civic function of "journalism".

Good point. So I'll disagree with yummyfajitas in a different way: revenge porn is not journalism, so if publicly shaming Weiner is no different than revenge porn it also isn't journalism.

Similarly, to take a slightly different topic, was it journalism to reveal the existence of Abu ghraib photos but not to publish the photos themselves?

I'm also not sure I trust the media in the role of verifying and then hiding evidence. Far better to just do full data dumps and let us figure things out for ourselves.

I don't agree with the person you're responding to, but I feel that the Internet has already basically blurred the line between "public figures" and "normal people" to a degree that needs to be addressed by the law.

As a basic example, someone who is a "normal person" might have a photo leak that goes so viral the photo leak itself makes them a "public figure" by the old celebrity definition. What then?

When it comes to publishing nude photos sent in a clearly private context, what is the distinction?

I do make no distinction, because the only meaningful distinction I see is "do reporters care about person x".

Is pax dickinson a public figure? How about joe the plumber? Both have been the subject of journalistic investigation.

I don't think releasing those photos of Anthony Weiner is the magical clear case of "journalism" that you think it is.

The charges in this specific case are blackmail. I don't think this has anything to do with viewpoints or consent.


The problem is that people have gotten comfortable with the idea that it's acceptable to hate someone for their hateful beliefs - forgetting that virtually every belief can be considered hateful with the right spin.

While I think this case had mitigating factors and the guy could have been charged anyway, I certainly don't trust the jerks in the DA's office to decide who the other jerks are.

The "yelling fire in a crowded theater" standard is pretty clearly applicable here:

Here are photos of someone naked vs here are photos of someone naked along with workplace, home address, home phone, etc.

Yelling fire isn't protected as it insights panic.

Doxing/revenge porn should be protected as it insights harassment.

By this logic, all killing should be allowed because we merely disagree that some types of killing. All type of sexual activity should be allowed because we merely disagree that some types of acts are non-consensual. Indeed...all types of crimes should be allowed because we merely disagree that some things are crimes.

Absolutism may work wonderfully in a fantasy universe, but it has no place in reality. There is a huge difference between the non-consensual posting of someone else's pictures (i.e., revenge porn) and Anthony Weiner, a politician running for office, posting his own pictures of his own privates to women he had just met or not even met. (Hint: in one situation, the subject of the photo did not consent to the distribution of the photo, and may not even have consented to the photo itself. In the other situation, the utter stupidity of the actions calls into question Weiner's judgment and demonstrates a propensity for making rash decisions, both of which are important to know when electing a representative.)

I'm cheering anyway. It's not possible to have a set of laws or system that will prevent all misdeeds and protect all basic rights.

Putting illegally obtained images on a website and operating an extortion racket to get them taken down is _not_ journalism.

Pure HN gold.

California is getting serious with efforts to end the scourge known as "revenge porn," in which men who want to hurt women (usually as "revenge" for dumping them) post naked photos of the women online and then encourage their community of fellow misogynists to harass them.

Revenge porn is definitely not just a male vs female thing. IIRC IsAnyoneUp had a large portion of male victims.

At least with this guy we had some recourse. When some Polish programmer makes a copy cat website no one will be able to take it down.

Bollaert just showed us the new reality: You can't stop the internet from trolling. Everyone missed the moral of the story and just sent the law after him.

(I think if he played this off as a social experiment to expose the world we live in, he'd have gotten a lot more slack )

I'm not sure I agree with this. The owner of the site didn't post any content him self or steal anything. I know and understand that the content of the site updated by its users has harmed many people and is morally wrong. But they should be going after the users that updated the content not this guy.

Ask you self whats the different between anonib.com and revenge porn site?

I take it you didn't read the article. Please do so now, paying special attention to the words "blackmail" and "extortion".

What's the difference between non-sexual harassment and sexual harassment?

Does this count as revenge porn under these laws?


I am curious to know if I can make my girlfriend sign a document giving me the absolute rights of all the photographs I might click of hers. [I am only hypothetically speaking.]

You own the rights to any photo you take, regardless of who is in it.

However, you can't use the subject to advertise or endorse something w/o their consent iirc (ianal).

You own the rights to the photo...but that does not necessarily give you the rights to the object(s) photographed, or in the case of a person, to their likeness.

>You own the rights to any photo you take, regardless of who is in it.

Are you sure? I remember reading about a bunch of lawsuits against people that had taken photos of iconic shapes (coke bottle, certain cars) and the maker of the iconic shape claimed copyright. (I can't find a link right now)

How was that image being used was probably important in those cases.

Are you saying that even though I own the copyright to an image I can't use it however I want? (Genuinely confused)

Yes. You can't use the subject of the image to advertise or otherwise promote something without the subjects consent, but the image itself is your property.

You could take a picture of a random person in public and publish it in a gallery, but you couldn't use that image to sell your brand of pop, iirc and ianal. Sorry I can't find a good link right now.

The issue in this case was not about the rights on these pictures, it was about what was done with them, apart from IE issues. You can't enter into a contract that will let you do illegal things to somebody. So you can't enter into a contract that will let you extort her. Of course once a contract exists that says you can do anything you want with the pictures, the bar for being 'extortion' will be much higher. It will still be contextually defined by a judge though. It all depends on the exact circumstances.

It's called a model release.

Why would you be interested in such a thing, even hypothetically

If it takes this long to stop something like this, then god help you if you're victimized in a less elaborate crime!

About goddam time.

What an absurd way of earning money..

Well, some make money in more absurd ways, like the (War)Defense industry...

I was shocked to learn that this was legal (in other states) in the first place. Disgusting.

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