Archive for Adam Steinbaugh

Roca Labs: Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil

Roca Labs is the kind of ‘weight loss’ company you might see in late-night infomercials, offering a ‘nutritional supplement’ that purports to keep a consumer feeling full so that they don’t feel the need to eat more.  To maximize prospective customers’ impressions that its products work as advertised, Roca Labs requires that those who purchase the product at a ‘discount’ agree not to tell anyone if it doesn’t work for them.

Inevitably, some of Roca Labs’ customers don’t have a positive experience.  Some take to websites like PissedConsumer.com — which Roca Labs has now sued — to recount their experience.  And, just as inevitably, Roca Labs issues ominous cease and desist notices demanding compliance with their speak-no-evil clause, under threat of lawsuits and attorneys’ fees.

That practice should concern — even alarm — consumers because it operates to silence criticism even where the criticism is completely true.  Consumers are, generally speaking, rational: they can evaluate whether or not a negative or positive review is predictive of what they’ll experience should they buy a product or service, particularly where the company itself can respond to and counter criticism.  While I’m in no position to weigh the merits of Roca Labs’ products, at least some of what Roca Labs has attempted to silence is likely true.

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No, I don’t run a revenge porn site

The operator of a revenge porn site website I’ve previously written about shut down his site, declared it to be under new ownership, and re-launched the website with a new name: mine.  The site is named and designed to give the impression that I operate the site.  I don’t.

It’s a clever, albeit unsettling, act of revenge by a revenge porn site owner.  It’s certainly more galling than the (usually) feeble threats of physical or legal harm, more annoying than the guy who sent me 250,000 emails, and more facepalm-inducing than the plethora of ridiculous accusations and ‘profiles’ that have popped up, among other desperate reactions.  Ultimately, however, it will prove to be ineffective: the site will continue to be difficult to find, victims who have contacted me have quickly seen through the true owner’s motivations, and I’m not in the slightest deterred from writing about this issue.

The individual I’ve previously identified as being involved in — if not himself running — the site has previously denied his involvement.  You can weigh for yourself whether his initial denial was credible and whether a “new” owner would be motivated to launch a site in my name.

I’m not naming the site’s address, and you shouldn’t try to find it.  If the involuntary aspect of it were not enough to dissuade patronization of the site, then – as I’ve previously written — the fact that a number of victims had written to the site’s owner complaining that they were underage in the photos should.  If not, please have your moral compass calibrated.

If you are a victim of the site, please get in touch with me and I’m more than happy to help you seek pro bono legal counsel or put you in touch with others who can help.

Ares Rights Adopts Matroyshka Doll Approach To Censorious DMCA Takedown Notices

I wrote about Ares Rights last week, criticizing (again) their use of frivolous DMCA takedown notices to attempt to remove content criticizing their firm or government officials in Ecuador and Argentina.

Ares Rights, answering my prayers, has now sent a frivolous DMCA takedown notice demanding the removal of my entire post, citing my alleged violation of Spanish privacy law for posting their address (which I didn’t)..  That’s right: Ares Rights is using an abusive DMCA notice to attempt to take down my post criticizing their use of DMCA notices to take down criticism of their censorious DMCA notices.  When you recover from reading that sentence, the DMCA notice (and my response) is below.

Update (9/3/2014): Ares actually sent three takedown notices at the same time, but my tech guy was laughing so hard at the first that he missed the other two, which are even more funny. As far as I can tell, the other two are identical, and based on the same, purposefully flawed logic (and content) of the takedown notice sent to Ecuadorian outlet PlanV.  The second and third DMCA — that is, Digital Millennium Copyright Act – notices claim that my use of this image, which had been created and posted by PlanV, constitutes trademark infringement:

censura-internet-interior_0

To make transparent their purposes, Ares Rights’ Luis Martinez says in these notices (“client” referring to me):

Your client acts as bad faith, since my logo is recognizable brand. Now,
your client makes a word game.

Your client acts in bad faith.

My tech guy had, thankfully, not yet sent my counter-notice.  So I’ve updated it with some more word games.

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Ares Rights Wants Ecuador Journalists To Stop Talking About Ares Rights’ Censorious Abuse of Copyright

The Ares Rights saga is… bizarre. So, they’ve summoned Barbra Streisand to sing their song.  After substantial attention to the firm’s abuse of copyright law to censor political dissidents (and, er, international oil conglomerates), Ares Rights has deployed a DMCA (copyright) takedown notice against an Ecuadorian news outlet targeting their coverage of Ares Rights’ censorious abuse of copyright.

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Plaintiff Seeks $123 Million In Revenge Porn Case Against Facebook, Ex

A Texas woman has sued social media site Facebook and an ex “friend”, Adeel Shah Khan, seeking $123 million in damages — ten cents for each of Facebook’s 1.23 billion subscribers.

The complaint, filed in Harris County, alleges that Adeel created a fake Facebook profile in the woman’s name, populating it with “doctored and photo shopped photographs” falsely depicting the woman naked.  Adeel is alleged to have then added the woman’s friends and family as ‘friends’ on the profile.

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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.

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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

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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

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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