Balance and Boundaries

The reasons I write about ‘revenge’ or ‘involuntary’ porn sites and the legal issues surrounding them are two-fold.  First, I write to give some, albeit limited, insight into the legal issues, and to document the ongoing legal cases as they develop. Second, I write to criticize those who develop or support such websites, so that public pressure — more speech — might encourage operators into shutting down their sites and deter others from starting new ones.

I wrote about one such site, which wound up being sued in a variety of federal courts and one of its operators indicted on extortion and identity theft charges.  In the course of the lawsuits, the parents of one of the two primary developers/operators of the site were named as defendants.  Naturally, I reported on the lawsuits and the legal predicaments faced by the developer’s parents.

The parents involved have now settled those lawsuits.  In doing so, they asked two federal courts to issue a dismissal which, among other things, authorizes the parents to ask various websites — including mine — to remove public court records and references to their names.

could be an asshole, stand on a free-speech-is-absolute principle, and point out that the courts’ orders are not binding on me because I was not a party to the proceedings and the orders don’t require me to do anything at all.

That wouldn’t serve the purpose of my writing.  Little deterrence would be accomplished and the site has long since shuttered.  But, I also have a responsibility to report on what has transpired, and cannot in good conscience simply erase public records from existence.  So, I decided that my response would be to remove the first names of the parents from my posts, which would allow the facts to remain while minimizing the likelihood that Google would return one of my posts as the top result for the parents’ names.

When the parents contacted me, they were polite and did not attempt to make the court orders out to be more than what they were — that is, they made no demands and did not suggest I was required to do anything.  They were intimidated by a confusing legal system and their livelihood was threatened by the online reputation bestowed upon them by their son’s careless behavior.  Someone dedicated to learning about the litigation could still discover their names, but a basic online search will be unlikely to immediately turn up anything I’ve posted.

That, to me, strikes an appropriate balance between criticizing and documenting the acts of those who deliberately seek to harm others for profit.  Reviewing the litigation history and the evidence submitted to the courts, I do not believe the parents deliberately furthered their son’s site, but were likely dumbfounded and understandably confused about what to do.

So, for the sake of transparency, their names have been removed from my posts, and I’ve privatized one of the pleadings which isn’t necessary to document the litigation history.  Their son’s name should be remembered, not theirs.

The Tale of WePay and Revenge Porn Extortionists

Upon request, in light of WePay’s recent apparent termination of an adult actor’s efforts to fundraise for her medical bills (because porn!), here’s the story of WePay and revenge porn extortionists.

Read more

So You’re Worried That You’re On A Revenge Porn Site

With the increase in media attention to the involuntary or “revenge” porn phenomena, I’ve received a number of emails and phone calls from people who are worried that their photos might be on a revenge porn site or floating around on this great big internet of ours.  (This is a different issue than someone who knows that they’re posted on a site.)

If you fall into the category of uncertainty, I probably can’t help you.  I can help track the people who own a site or, sometimes, the people who posted photos to a site, but if there’s no starting point — a website address or an image — you’re probably in a better position than I am to find out whether your images are floating around somewhere.

But I thought I’d share the advice I’ve given to people who are worried about this possibility

Read more

Federal Court: Lawsuit Against Revenge Porn Site Owner Eric Chanson (And His Parents) May Go Forward

Just in time for Mother’s Day, a Federal court in San Diego ruled that a lawsuit against Eric Chanson, the one-time operator of revenge porn site “YouGotPosted” (aka UGotPosted), and his parents, may move forward.

The site, which allegedly posted the nude photos of 10,000 people, was shut down shortly after its main operator, Kevin Bollaert, was interviewed by California authorities.  Bollaert was subsequently indicted on thirty-one felony counts of extortion and identity theft. 1

The court’s order denying the Chansons’ motions to dismiss (and denying a motion for sanctions against the plaintiff’s lawyers, Marc Randazza and friends) is below. 2

The San Diego case involves a plaintiff who was fourteen years old in the photographs and is one of four lawsuits pending against the site’s alleged former operators.  In each, the Chansons have sought unsuccessfully to have the cases dismissed. 3

Read more

Notes:

  1. While it is unclear what, if any, role Eric Chanson played in the extortionate operation of YouGotPosted, the complaint against Bollaert notes that the ‘takedown’ site, ChangeMyReputation.com, was opened “with the assistance of known and unknown conspirators”. Eric Chanson should be worried: email records indicate that the PayPal account linked to the ‘ChangeMyReputation.com’ email address was connected to his bank account. None of the Chansons has been indicted.
  2. Because the plaintiff is or was a minor, I am redacting her name.
  3. Bollaert has, until recently, largely ignored the cases, leading to a $300,000 default judgment against him and the fictitious “Blue Mist Media, Inc.,” which purported to run YouGotPosted.  Bollaert is currently in default in the San Diego case.

Information About MyEx.com?

If you have information about MyEx.com that you’d like to share, please contact me with a working email address or phone number:

adam@adamsteinbaugh.com
(562) 686-6990

Revenge Porn Site MyEx.com Sued For Copyright Infringement

Revenge porn site MyEx.com, along with Google and Yahoo!, has been sued for copyright infringement in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.  The complaint is below.  ((Although the plaintiff in this action has previously sued the now-defunct website Texxxan and is publicly known, I redacted her name from the complaint because her photos continue to be accessible on MyEx.com and appear to have been posted in retaliation for having sued Texxxan.))

MyEx.com is one of few remaining websites dedicated to so-called “revenge porn,” and is likely the largest website of its kind, hosting the nude photos of upwards of 6,000 men and women.  It has been the subject of increasing media attention and peripheral legal action, although the site itself has never been sued.  This week, a former NFL player was sued by his ex-wife, who alleged that he posted her nude photos to MyEx.com. Previously, a teacher at a Christian school lost her job after being posted on MyEx — and was later charged with filing a false police report in connection with the posting.

MyEx is purportedly operated by “Web Solutions, B.V.,” a company in the Netherlands that does not exist.  Rather, the site was created and continues to be operated by Americans in coordination with persons in the Philippines.

Read more

Who Runs Revenge Porn Site Whozacunt.com?

(This post is part of a series of investigative pieces attempting to identify the owners of “revenge porn” websites.)

WhozaCunt.com: The Revenge Porn Site Down Under

WhozaCunt.com is a revenge porn site “dedicated to helping you get even with bitches and assholes and give them what’s coming to them! [...] Make them famous – they deserve it!”  Having posted the nude photos of men and women against their will, the site subjects its victims to a bizarre ‘takedown’ ritual.  The site’s takedown policy requires victims themselves (and not a lawyer or family member) to provide a copy of their photo ID, another photo of the victim to prove they’re making the request, “proof” of the date the images were taken, and a “counter declaration,” without elaborating what the victim is supposed to declare.

When victims complained, the site would post their full emails, along with their photo IDs, and state opaquely that they had failed to comply with the takedown process.

Some victims of the site assert, credibly, that they were under the age of 18 in the photos featured on Whozacunt.com.  For example, one victim circled some, but not all, of the nude photos in her profile, to indicate which ones were taken while she was underage.  Whozacunt refused to remove the profile or any of the photos and instead re-posted the circled photos.

When challenged, the site takes an aggressive stance to increase the humiliation of its victims.  One woman and her parents complained to the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, alleging that Whozacunt.com was refusing to remove nude photos of somebody else (and posted under the victim’s name).  The day after Whozacunt.com received a letter from the Consumer Protection Division, a new site arose using a domain consisting of the young woman’s full name, along with her nude photos.

Who could be this cruel?  A guy who cares more about cruelty to pigeons than cruelty to people.

Read more

A Vigilante Statement of Intent

Over the past year or so, I’ve been writing a series of investigative pieces documenting who I believed was operating so-called “revenge porn” sites.  It’s probably time that I explain why.((I mean, aside from the fact that it’s funny to reveal that a guy who was a professional pigeon racer now runs a revenge porn site.  Seriously, professional pigeon racer.  That post goes up tomorrow.))

With few exceptions, the people operating these websites go to differing lengths to obscure who is running the site.  There’s a reason for that.  Their friends, family, significant others, and professional associates probably wouldn’t be as supportive if they knew about their hobby of humiliation for profit.  So, too, would victims, lawyers, occasionally law enforcement, and the John Q. Public like to know who runs these sites, and why they run them: is it because they’re embarrassed, because they fear lawsuits, or because they’re engaging in outright extortion?

And I would like to know, too.  While there’s a debate to be had about the First Amendment implications of revenge porn, one thing is certain: more speech criticizing these sites, their practices, and their owners is protected.  Exposing and criticizing owners pressures them to end their practice, deters others from starting sites, and guides law enforcement, lawyers, and victims in locating the owners.

Thus far, I’ve written about IsAnybodyDown’s Craig BrittainTexxxan’s Hunter TaylorYouGotPosted’s Kevin Bollaert, and WinByState’s Casey Meyering.  One of these sites shut down voluntarily, two others after being sued, and two of these owners are facing extortion charges. While I would like to claim credit for taking these sites down,((There is always someone with a skill and too much time on their hands. I happen to be one of those people.)) much heavier lifting has been done by the victims who raised awareness and pressure on law enforcement to act, the law enforcement officers who did act, and the lawyers who navigated new legal territory.  Perhaps I’ve had no impact at all.

Nonetheless, I believe that public pressure — more speech — works.  One site, AnonIB.com, shuttered last week after its ownership was purportedly revealed and, in its stead, issued a statement:

Apology to the girls who were posted on site against their will and especially those that had to donate to have their pictures removed. Its a warning to those that abuse others online. There are forces that work to track and expose them, and those forces WILL win in the end. There are plenty of girls and boys, women and men, who willingly want to be naked on the internet so post their pictures instead.

By my count, three dedicated revenge porn sites remain.  I know who owns each of these sites and, often, the people who support them.  They should and — if their sites remain online — will be criticized.

Tomorrow, another name gets added to the list.

Casey E. Meyering of Tulsa, OK Arrested in Connection With Revenge Porn Site ‘WinByState’

Casey Meyering booking photo

Casey Meyering’s booking photo, courtesy KTVU.

Casey E. Meyering was arrested yesterday in Tulsa, Oklahoma in connection with his revenge porn site ‘WinByState’.  Meyering faces five counts of extortion in California for requiring victims of his website to pay $250 to have nude photos removed from his website.  Meyering utilized a website, “TakedownHammer.info,” to create the impression that money was being sent to an independent company, as opposed to the owner of the revenge porn site.

I exposed Meyering’s fraudulent practice in June.  The Los Angeles Times reports that Meyering is resisting extradition to California.  Per his arrest report, below, Meyering was found in a Tulsa hotel room and resisted arrest.

Meyering was previously known in Tulsa as the drummer of local band FM Pilots.  Reached for comment, the band says:

None of us knew about his involvement in revenge porn. He was terminated for other reasons. This is all very big shock. He hasn’t been playing for quite some time.

Meyering is the second revenge porn site owner to face extortion charges in California.   Kevin Bollaert, who operated YouGotPosted, was arrested on thirty-one felony counts in December and is awaiting trial.  Revenge porn kingpin Hunter Moore was arrested on federal ‘hacking’ charges in January. Nobody, including Meyering, has been charged under California’s new revenge porn law, at least in part because the Communications Decency Act prohibits many state-level criminal charges against website owners.

Meyering’s arrest demonstrates that the California Attorney General’s office is serious about pursuing extortionate revenge porn site owners — Bollaert’s arrest was not a one-off.  It also shows that California authorities are happy to travel across the country to seek out their targets.

A source familiar with Meyering told me over the summer:

He has seen your blog… and said any publicity is good publicity.

I guess not.  Updates as this story develops.  Meyering’s arrest report is below.

Read more

Hunter Moore Pleads Not Guilty; Meet His Co-Defendant, Charlie “Gary” Evens

Hunter Moore, the so-called “revenge porn” progenitor, made his second court appearance on charges that he hired co-defendant Charles “Gary” Evens to access email accounts of five women in order to find and post their nude photos on his now-defunct website, IsAnyoneUp?

Hunter Moore's attorney, Robert Holley

Moore’s attorney, Robert Holley

With his parents in tow, Moore was arraigned on and sheepishly plead not-guilty to fifteen counts of violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030 (unauthorized access to a protected computer, popularly referred to as ‘hacking’), 18 U.S.C. § 1028A (aggravated identity theft), 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy), and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting).  His co-defendant, Charles Robert Evens, entered a not-guilty plea in January and was released on $60,000 bond.

In attendance at Moore’s arraignment was Dr. Charlotte Laws, widely credited with amassing the evidence and public pressure on law enforcement to act.

At his initial appearance in January, Moore was ordered to assist Federal agents in shutting down his online accounts and websites.  Moore is prohibited from having access to the internet, a computer, or a cell phone.  Moore was released from custody in January after posting a $100,000 unsecured appearance bond — that is, he and his parents have agreed to pay the government $100,000 if Moore skips town.

After the hearing, I waited outside for Moore, along with a camera crew from Inside Edition.  When Moore spotted us, he sprinted away, holding his backwards hat down, while his lawyer laughed.

Who is Charlie “Gary” Evens?

Charlie

Moore’s co-defendant, Charlie “Gary” Evens

Little is known about Moore’s co-defendant, Charlie Evens.  What is known paints a picture that contrasts greatly with Moore.  Where Moore welcomed his status as an internet villain, Evens is a more sympathetic defendant — although that’s not difficult.

A resident of the Los Angeles area and 2006 graduate of Notre Dame High School, he was a “skipper” on Disneyland’s jungle cruise ride before working for Deluxe Entertainment Studios as a Digital Asset Manager.  On the side, Evens produced and hosted a short-lived live comedy show (the creatively-named “Charlies’ Comedy Show“) featuring moderately well-known comedians.

Evens was convicted of driving under the influence in 2012 and remains on probation.

In May 2012, the Village Voice described in detail allegations that a “Gary Jones” was using social engineering tactics to access email accounts, and that Hunter Moore would post nude photos from those accounts.  “Gary,” in a moment of empathy and self-pity, apologized to one victim and told her that he had just been arrested for his “3rd DUI” and was struggling with sobriety.  The email address disclosed in the Village Voice article appears to match that in the indictment against Moore and Evens.

Moore, responding to allegations that the sources of his nude catalog were more than just spurned ex-lovers, told the Village Voice:

“I’ve had tons of hackers give me shit,” he told me over the phone, insisting that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the same federal law that has shielded his site from prosecution all along, absolves him of legal responsibility. [...] “It always comes back on the hacker. I’m not gonna lie. I’ve paid people for content. I don’t give a fuck. You can say that. If I’ve paid for content, they have to submit the same [way] as the user. It would all fall back on the user.”

The law Moore cited in his armchair lawyering, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, generally protects websites and their owners from liability for content submitted by users.  However, Section 230 is expressly inapplicable to Federal criminal law, and is not a license-by-virtue-of-website to commit any criminal act under the sun.

The trial of Evens is scheduled to begin on March 25 before the Hon. Dolly M. Gee. There was some confusion over the date of Moore’s trial, but was tentatively set for April 8.  I plan to attend and report from the trial.  Moore has retained Robert M. Holley and Evens is represented by a Federal public defender. The public documents in the case are available here and here.