An Involuntary Porn Site and its Deceptive “Reputation Management” Site, ChangeMyReputation.com

YouGotPosted.com is an involuntary porn site similar to IsAnybodyDown.com in more than its content: it’s taking a page from Craig Brittain’s playbook: they destroy your reputation by posting your nude photos, name, and hometown so that it’s easily found whenever someone Googles your name.  And they’ll keep destroying your reputation — but here’s an advertisement for a company that will negotiate with them to get your photos taken down. For a fee.

Except that the ‘reputation’ or ‘takedown’ company isn’t exactly independent.  It’s likely coordinated by the people posting those nude photos.

If you’re just joining this series, some background: involuntary porn sites are those which post the nude photos of men and women without their consent — photos often solicited from ex-lovers bent on fleeting vengeance.  This trail was blazed by Hunter Moore, who accidentally created the genre with his now-defunct website IsAnyoneUp.com.

Involuntary porn kingpin Hunter Moore, citing a guilty conscience, sold his empire to the owners of anti-bullying site Bullyville.com, who promptly shuttered Moore’s site.

YouGotPosted.com is a cheap knock-off of Moore’s accidental ingenuity.  “YouGotPosted” used Moore-inspired domain names like IsAnyoneUp.net (PDF) to drive traffic to their lurching creations.  Very creative, these guys.  These domain names — an infringement on the trademark held by Bullyville (represented by Marc Randazza) – led to a lawsuit (PDF).

There are many problems facing those feral enough to run involuntary porn sites.  Few hosts will take them in due to the obvious copyright issues — the websites almost never own the copyright to the photos they profit from.  Still other hosts may balk at the risk that some of those pictured will be underage, as most adult sites have to check the ID of their actors — an impossible task when the person pictured doesn’t want to be on there at all.  There’s also the risk — to both the host and the site’s owners — that one of the people displayed will be angry enough to hire a lawyer.

How to solve this?  Craig Brittain, proprietor of IsAnybodyDown, figured this out by creating an apparently fake lawyer (“David Blade, III”, the “Takedown Lawyer”) to advertise on his site, IsAnybodyDown.com.  For $250 — a fee far lower than most lawyers would charge — “David Blade” would negotiate with his old college buddy, Craig Brittain, and convince him to remove those career-menacing photos and Google results.  (After the authenticity of “David Blade” was questioned, Craig Brittain replaced him with “David and Sean” operating as the purportedly independent “Takedown Hammer” — a site registered in Craig’s name).  Thus, the risk that a real lawyer would be hired was diminished and IsAnybodyDown could pocket a pretty penny to remove photos it likely never had the right to post in the first place.

YouGotPosted is now replicating that dubious innovation.  An “ad” on the site (PDF) links to ChangeMyReputation.com, a site whose text and policies are copy-paste rip-offs of Reputation.com.  For $199.99 via PayPal, the “team” at ChangeMyReputation.com promises to remove damaging posts at unspecified websites.  Via email, its operators asserted that they were two different companies owned by different people.

The service isn’t exactly independent.  I doubt that it’s independent at all.  Here’s why:

  • The sites share nameservers operated by the same company and have similar Whois backgrounds (PDF), including changes to new (similar) nameservers at the same time;
  • Emails from ChangeMyReputation.com and YouGotPosted.com were sent from the same residential IP address;
  • The name associated with the ChangeMyReputation.com email address is “Eric Steven.”  Here’s the associated Google+ profile.  “Eric Steven” is an alias of Eric Chanson, the purported owner (PDF) of YouGotPosted.com.  Chanson used the email address ericxteven@gmail.com in YouGotPosted.com’s domain registration (PDF).  The website EricSteven.com shares similar nameservers as YouGotPosted and ChangeMyReputation — and was registered at the same Princeton, NJ address as YouGotPosted.com (PDF).
  • ChangeMyReputation.com was unwilling to identify any other site that it can remove content from, only alluding to “special ways of removing content that we do not disclose to our customers.” [Emails - PDF]
  • ChangeMyReputation promised to be able to remove content from YouGotPosted.com before anyone paid — so long as payment was received within minutes [Emails - PDF];
  • Confronted with information linking the sites, the person sending the emails claimed to be operating as the ‘customer service’ representative for both sites – despite having just asserted that the companies were independent of one another.  The ‘contact’ at YouGotPosted.com, though emailing me at the same time, elided this coincidence when asked to vouch for the independent ‘ChangeMyReputation.’  [Emails - PDF]

It’s entirely possible that someone other than Eric Chanson is tasked with running “customer” service for these sites.  While Chanson is (or was) in New Jersey, the emails originated from an IP address in San Diego.  Perhaps it’s Kevin Bollaert, a San Diego resident who owns the “YouGotPosted” trademark and is being sued for his involvement in the site (PDF). Nevertheless, I believe that whoever it is acts at the direction of YouGotPosted, and that the sites are not remotely independent of each other.

So there are now two involuntary porn sites which advertise ‘independent’ services to remove photos for money.  Neither is truly independent.  These guys are promising to ‘negotiate’ with themselves — for a fee — to take down photos to which they don’t own the rights.

But why put up a front? Why not simply say, “we’ll only take down your photos if you pony up $200″?  Because that would be unseemly.  That would sound extortionate.  And people might be less willing to pay if they knew it was going to the site’s owner and not someone negotiating with or fighting the site’s owner.  A ‘takedown team’ sounds like people doing actual, tedious work dealing with scummy guys so that you don’t have to.

That’s not right — and the deceptive nature of these ‘takedown’ teams tells you all you need to know about the louts running these sites.

[Update 1/2/2013: YouGotPosted is doubling down on their deceptive ‘service’, adding new language that suggests it’s impossible to get images removed without using the “ChangeMyReputation” ‘service’  — and isn’t even calling it an “ad” anymore.  The “contact” page is now prefaced by a dubious assertion that the posted photos are protected by CDA §230 and an implication that there are only two solutions: call the police or use the ChangeMyReputation service.  Police departments, constrained by limited resources and institutional deficiencies in addressing cross-jurisdictional internet issues, are unlikely to do anything beyond taking a report.  For those unwilling or unable to pay for an attorney to properly advise them, the only apparent solution is to fork over $200 to YouGotPosted to have their own photos removed.

That’s no small cost given the potential the site has to ruin lives.  The ChangeMyReputation page now acknowledges: “Negative search results could cost you EVERYTHING.”

YouGotPosted still has not disclosed its actual relationship with ChangeMyReputation.com.]

[Update 12/10/2013: Kevin Bollaert has been arrested and charged with thirty-one felony counts of extortion and identity theft in connection with ‘UGotPosted’ and ChangeMyReputation.com]