A Synopsis of the Involuntary Porn Site IsAnybodyDown.com Controversy — the tl;dr

If you’re not yet familiar with IsAnybodyDown.com (NSFW), here’s a synopsis of the controversy surrounding it:

Involuntary porn: IsAnybodyDown.com is an “involuntary porn” or “revenge porn” site, posting nude photos, names, phone numbers, hometowns, and Facebook profiles of over 700 people.  The photos are posted without consent and are purportedly submitted by jealous ex-lovers, but may be culled by the site from deceived Craigslist users.  The site, hosted in Romania, claims immunity from U.S. copyright law and posted emails mocking those asking to have photos removed.  Its owners view the site as a “weapon.”

But IsAnybodyDown.com’s creators are AmericanThe site was started by Craig Brittain of Colorado Springs (now living in Phoenix) and Chance Trahan of Tempe, Arizona, though Chance denies that he “runs” the site, insisting that he is only a freelance artist.

Enter attorney David Blade: People understandably desperate to have photos removed turned to attorney “David Blade III”, who advertised on IsAnybodyDown and on his own site, TakedownLawyer.com, offering to negotiate with his old college friend Craig Brittain to have pictures removed for $250.  Blade boasts of removing photos of 90 people from the site.

Attorney David Blade turns out to be fake: “David Blade” does not exist.  “David Blade” is purportedly a public defender in New York, but no lawyer by that name is registered with the NY state bar.  The “Takedown Lawyer” website was registered and hosted by Craig Brittain, and emails from both “David Blade” and Craig Brittain likely originated from the same computer in Colorado Springs.  It appears that Craig Brittain was pretending to be attorney “David Blade”, receiving money to negotiate with himself to remove photos he doesn’t own.  Ken White, a former Federal prosecutor, believes this is wire fraud.  Craig later claimed that he doesn’t know who “David Blade” is and that a friend made him up.

Enter the real attorneys:  Noted First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza uncovered the scam and offered to represent victims of IsAnybodyDown.com for free.  Others stepped forward to assist.

Enter the media:  NPR’s On the Media interviewed both Marc Randazza and Craig Brittain, and the Colorado Springs Independent interviewed Craig Brittain, leading Craig and Chance to engage extensively in the comments of the post.  CBS Denver will air an interview with Craig and victims of the site on Saturday, Jan. 12th. Also: ArsTechnicathe Daily DotAbove the LawLawyeristJezebelTechdirt (twice), and the Italian version of the Huffington Post.

Craig and Chance try to censor their critics: Craig, a self-described “front-line first amendment warrior,” tried (and failed) to use copyright law to censor posts about him at Popehat. Craig attempted to delete criticism of him from Wikipedia and was banned after making legal threats. Chance posted legal threats claiming “slander” and “invasion of privacy” in comments on my blogPopehat, Wikipedia, Techdirt, Ethics Alarm,  and a satirical video.  Chance successfully had the satirical video removed, arguing that its use of his photo and name invades his privacy.  Chance threatened that this blogger would be “extradited” to Arizona to face a libel suit if he didn’t remove “every last word” about him.

Craig fires back: Craig responded with a “press release” and with Trolldown.com, blaming Obama for his problems and claiming that Randazza, Ken White, and myself were each paid $350,000 by “Big Porn” to take down his site.  Craig launched his own personal site to respond to criticism.

Chance lashes out: Chance ranted on Twitteon his personal site, and filed a complaint with the BBB, claiming anti-bullying site Bullyville.com is paying Randazza and others to criticize him.

Enter Anonymous: #Knightsec, the contingent of hacking group Anonymous that targeted Hunter Moore (progenitor of revenge porn) declared war on the site.

Bullyville Offers a Reward: Anti-bullying site Bullyville.com is offering a $500 reward for proof that IsAnybodyDown.com contains photos of people under the age of 18.

YouGotPosted replicates the scheme: Another involuntary porn site has created a similar dubious front to collect money from its victims: ChangeMyReputation.com.

So what’s next? Things have been moderately quiet for the past few days — publicly, anyway. Stay tuned.

  • SA

    It may be just maintenance or a glitch, but the IAD site server is “offline”, and giving this message:
    “The website that you are trying to access is in Offline Mode, which means the server is not currently responding.”

    Trolldown is giving the standard “unreachable” message rather than the Offline-Mode message.

    • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

      That’s happened fairly often over the last couple of days. I suspect they’ll be back up pretty shortly. It’s not as if the power of my words here is enough to suddenly convince them of the moral (and legal) failings of this endeavor. I’m apparently not even notable enough to merit a DMCA takedown notice or my own post on Trolldown.

      • Tali McPike

        Trolldown is up again.

  • anon

    Today is Craig’s birthday, according to his user profile on some websites.

    • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

      And a very happy birthday to him.

  • SA

    I understand. Have you been seeing the “Server Offline” message for IAD, or the standard “Can’t find it, are you sure you spelled it right?” one?

    My sympathies on being left out like that. It reminds me of Rakofsky leaving half a dozen blawggers out of his first salvo of filings. But he fixed that later. You may still get your moment of glory on Trolldown …

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  • http://isanybodydown.com IsAnybodyDown

    Be advised that these actions, your slander and screen shots can and will be used as key factors should a case be pursued against you. Your posting, advertising, marketing, dissipating and otherwise disseminating the slanderous materials constitute actionable violations of Mr. Trahan and Mr Brittain’s rights of privacy and publicity.

    • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

      Leaving aside the absurdity of an involuntary porn site’s owners asserting a right to privacy, or the patent frivolity of that assertion, or the fact either that David Blade is giving you terrible legal advice or that you don’t have a lawyer:

      You say something here is “slander.” I’ll indulge you and assume you meant libel, as slander is spoken and the latter written. I do want to get things right. If you can direct me to which stated facts, exactly, are incorrect, I remain happy to correct.

      Until then, please stop being cartoon villains.

      • beverlybrewmaster

        “Key factors”? I think he may actually have a point here, Adam. While you and I both know that blog posts are generally inadmissible in a court of law under the Federal Rules of Key Factors, a recent Supreme Court Discussion published in the Federal Magazine held that screen shots of blog posts are acceptable as an exception to the speak and say rule.

        • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

          I ain’t scared. I can’t think of a single court with geolocation over this.

        • http://www.williamgryan.mobi Bill

          I’m not a lawyer but from what I understand, it’s not as simple as presenting a screen cap is it? Isn’t there a chain of custody and a bunch of other steps you have to step through to prove the evidence is legit? Admittedly Adam isn’t denying that he wrote the material in the screen cap, but it’s so easy to photoshop stuff you have to generally take some steps to make sure it’s admissible. If I was in Craig Brittain or Chance Trahan’s shoes, I would have went to a real lawyer immediately – DIY law generally doesn’t work out well, especially if you’re a dipsh** in the first place. I’m pretty sure Adam can more than handle himself against these two clowns, if for no other reason then they’re not seeking competent legal help. Maybe it’s b/c they can’t find a lawyer to defend them, or maybe can’t afford the ones that did – or maybe are just too cheap to want to spend them money – whatever it is – if I had to bet on the outcome of this – I’m betting the over on Adam, Marc & Ken – no doubt.

          • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

            I think you mean that Chance or Craig aren’t denying that they’ve written it. Also, Beverly’s comment was poking fun at Chance’s confusion over what various legal terms mean.

            There are some admissibility hurdles, but the burden is pretty low and could probably be met with my testifying that I took the screenshots, received a particular email, etc. Chance/Craig could try to argue that it could have been Photoshopped, but there’s no evidence of that (because I haven’t edited anything except to obscure identifying information of victims). Plus, they can be asked in a deposition or at trial whether they wrote something, and the legal system as a whole frowns on people who lie under oath.

          • http://www.williamgryan.mobi Bill

            I misunderstood the comment Adam. I thought the point was that they could use screen caps against you – I was just making the case that screen caps alone aren’t very compelling in and of themselves b/c they can be altered so easily. I just had the experience with email – where much of what was written was real, but several sentences were added in to make it sound bad. But yes, as stated, they’d need to be the ones making the claim your screen caps aren’t legit and yes, they can be deposed. I was thinking the comment was about them bringinig it to you, not the other way around – There’s little doubt you’d resort to that type of crap, but who knows with them. That whole conspiracy they’ve come up with is a bit much.

    • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

      In response to this comment, I emailed Craig and Chance to offer to correct any inaccurate statements and/or post any response they might have, and to note that I wouldn’t be cowering in silence because of baseless legal threats.

      Chance wrote back:

      Thanks, I can now use this as proof as well that you are in turn harassing us. Thanks for replying. I knew you would.

      If Chance thinks attempting to ensure that statements about him are accurate is not a legitimate purpose (one of the elements of ‘harassment’), then I don’t know what to say. Announcing you have won a game of checkers is poor form when you’re playing chess, especially when you’d be losing at checkers, too.

      Nevertheless, that will be the last Chance will hear directly from me, and I’m sorry to have extended the courtesy. The offer remains if they have a change of heart. If in the future Chance and Craig don’t want to read my opinions of them, they’re welcome to explore more palatable corners of the internet.

      • http://satiricaltakedownlawyer.wordpress.com satiricaltakedownlawyer

        What the…WHAT? I literally cannot wrap my mind around that kind of stupid.
        Also LOL at your link, but I think you are giving them too much credit.. I would have gone with Nick JR or Sesame Street myself

    • http://twitter.com/new_iconoclast Steve Florman

      “Dissipating”? Ignoramus.

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  • http://www.williamgryan.mobi Bill

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but in general, I’ve been told that messing with the Mob is a absolutely suicidal endeavor in general – there’s very little upside to it. I’ve also found out that going to court is seldom a winner if it can be avoided, you can win ‘big’ in a civil case and still be out a lot of money – it’s the epitome of a Pyrrhic victory – generally though, if you have to go up against your local run of the mill atty who’s just trying to pay the bills and say, high dollar marquee attys, picking fights with the latter is a really bad idea. Making it personal with an attorney is one more thing I’ve generally known to be a really bad idea – making it personal with a really smart, well known, well funded atty – even if you win you’re going to lose your a55. Admittedly if they were smart we wouldn’t be having this discussion – but when Marc wrote them ,they could have just said “It was a good run” and let it go. they could have taken their site down and kept moving it each time until it got discovered again and they could repeat. But nope, instead, smack the hell out of an ever growing hornets nest, brilliant.

    • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

      Yeah, this isn’t an optimal strategy.

      It would be smart of them had they followed in the footsteps of Hunter Moore, who wasn’t afraid of the storm of criticism that rained on him. In fact, that was his strategy: be outrageous and talk to any media outlet that came calling — making wild threats (like threatening to blow up the Village Voice newsroom) and daring the authorities to do something. It all meant exposing his site to a new audience. Then he could claim a change of conscience and walk away with notoriety and money.

      These guys seem embarrassed to get critical attention. Turning down interviews (in which they’d get a chance to go toe-to-toe with Randazza) and using legal threats to try to shut people up. Talk about a missed opportunity if their real goal was to do better than Hunter Moore and make some waves. At least Moore stood up for himself, even if he was wrong.

      They’re either embarrassed (as they should be) or they’re cowards. I don’t know which is worse.

  • http://www.williamgryan.mobi Bill

    Hey Adam – I’ll write you privately about it – but just curious if there’s much that could be done if they didn’t pull the fake lawyer routine?Let’s say the TakeDownLawyer never existed, just IsAnybodyDown – is the mere existence of “Involuntary” stuff like that actionable?

    • http://www.adamsteinbaugh.com Adam Steinbaugh

      It’s definitely actionable — either criminally because of failure to keep records or by copyright or tort. Whether it’s worthwhile is another question. I’m hoping any lawsuits over this site will clarify the best legal strategy to go,after revenge porn sites.

      • http://www.williamgryan.mobi Bill

        From what I’ve been told by a few people, there’s a contingent that is going around and making sure anything that’s taken down is reposted elsewhere in all it’s glory. I suspect that financial ruin will get a few people’s attention, but there’s a lot of people with nothing that dont’ really worry about such things. Criminal prosecution however would probably get a lot more attention. Chance Trahan and Craig Brittain are particularly pathetic in many ways – they’re both arrogant and pretty stupid (I mean, pretending to be a fake lawyer to lawyers, sending real lawyers legal BS you wrote yourself is stupid squared) but I think some of the other sites might be run by people a little more sophisticated. I know PinkMeth makes a point of rubbing it in – so if the victim has a twitter account, they make a big point of letting them know it’s happened. They may be careful enough to have always used a proxy or other means to make sure it’s not traceable back to them, but there’s a large # of tweets and it only takes one mistake

  • http://cjrec.wordpress.com cjrec

    In my opinion, people who victimize young women, then try to defraud them of money to end their victimization, should be be put in a dark hole for a very long time.

  • Al_V

    “this isn’t an optimal strategy”
    I see a new internet meme here.
    General Custer at Little Bighorn..
    Paulus at Stalingrad
    Craig & Chance in court…

    • Scott Jacobs

      What, like “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”?

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  • Battlecast Xerath

    What is this… pornography i hear so much about? I remember what sex was, back when i was human…