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 Brittain, Texxxan’s Hunter Taylor, YouGotPosted’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.