Archive for Asshats

Kevin Bollaert Convicted of Extortion in YouGotPosted/ChangeMyReputation Case

Kevin Christopher Bollaert has been convicted of 27 counts of felony extortion and identity theft in connection with his operation of revenge porn site YouGotPosted.com and its extortionate partner, ChangeMyReputation.com.  Bollaert was acquitted of conspiracy and one charge of identity theft. More than thirty women testified to payments demanded by Bollaert’s operation.

This is the first conviction — anywhere — of a revenge porn site owner.  Casey Meyering, another site owner with a scheme identical to that of Craig Brittain, who reached a settlement with the FTC last week, also faces trial in California on extortion charges.  Hunter Moore, the progenitor of so-called “revenge porn” sites, faces trial in March for alleged violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  None, including Bollaert, have been charged under California’s “revenge porn” statute, which was both (1) passed after Bollaert’s arrest; and (2) is inapplicable to the people running revenge porn sites by operation of CDA § 230.

I first identified the extortionate and fraudulent practice of Bollaert and his partner, Eric Chanson, almost a year before Bollaert’s indictment. 1  The state’s evidence — which I will detail in an update to this post later this evening — demonstrated that Bollaert operated both the revenge porn site and ChangeMyReputation, which purported to be an independent company that could remove the photos from YouGotPosted.com.  Chanson, at some point — apparently after my initial post — asked Bollaert to disassociate Chanson’s name from the sites, but Chanson’s accounts were used to establish the means of soliciting payments through ChangeMyReputation.  My research demonstrated that, among other things, emails sent from both YouGotPosted and ChangeMyReputation originated from the same San Diego IP address, and that the “ChangeMyReputation” operator could not identify a single other site from which photos could be removed.  At the time, I called this practice “extortionate.”

Please forgive this moment of schadenfreude: 2

babe_ruth

After a friend — who shall remain nameless, but to whom much gratitude is owed — assisted in terminating the site’s PayPal account, Bollaert began demanding that victims pay him in Amazon gift cards.  Bollaert shut down the sites almost immediately after law enforcement contacted him.

I won’t pretend to have an educated guess as to the amount of time Bollaert faces, but it’s safe to say that it’s substantial.  While I could not attend the trial, I do hope to attend the sentencing.

Bollaert did raise what appears to be a defense based, in part, on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  I would be surprised if this verdict were not appealed, as it’s circumspect as to whether the extortion and, in particular, identity theft charges impermissibly treat Bollaert as a publisher, which would prevent prosecution at the hands of state authorities.

 

Notes:

  1. I don’t know whether law enforcement relied on my research in targeting Bolleart.  I can only hope.
  2. Perhaps inappropriately so.  My contribution amounted to writing a blog post.  The real credit goes to the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who were willing to listen and try a difficult case, the attorneys who sued these guys pro bono, and, most importantly, the dozens of victims who were willing to speak up.

Craig Brittain “Shuts Down” IsAnybodyDown, Renames it “ObamaNudes.com”

[Update (2/28/15): Since Brittain is trying to get this post removed, it’s received substantially more traffic than it would have otherwise.  This is called the Streisand Effect: when attempts to remove content through dubious legal means winds up backfiring and exposing the content to more people who wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.  Meanwhile, the FTC will soon vote on whether to settle with Brittain — a settlement which does not require him to pay back his victims.  I think the FTC should require him to pay his victims back, and with a spare minute or two, you can tell the FTC not to let Brittain off with a slap on the wrist.]

Yesterday, revenge porn’s Craig Brittain announced on Twitter that he was ending his site, IsAnybodyDown.com (synopsis here).  Many (myself included) interpreted that to mean that Brittain was shutting down his site.  And with tweets like these, wouldn’t you?:

Alas, it appears that Brittain was being disingenuous: he’s merely renamed the site to ObamaNudes.com — and wants more money.

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IsAnybodyDown: Craig Brittain’s 2005 Harassment Charge Unsurprisingly Predictive

Craig Brittain’s revenge porn site, IsAnybodyDown.com, might have been an unremarkable ripoff of Hunter Moore’s “Is Anyone Up?” site if not for “David Blade III, Esq.”  Blade was an invention of Craig Brittain, a fake attorney created to add an aura of legitimacy to Brittain’s extortionate scheme:  post nude photos along with full names, social media profiles, and phone numbers, then charge victims $250 to have them removed.

Nor was “David Blade” Brittain’s only only online impersonation.  I theorized that Brittain’s efforts went a step further: pretend to be a Craigslist user arranging a sexual encounter, then take the photos and post them to IsAnybodyDown.  That theory proved true when CBS Denver turned up emails bearing Brittain’s IP address, showing that he pretended to be a “Jess Davis” to solicit nude photos, using the photos of one of his victims.

Brittain maintains that “David Blade” is real (or, at least, was created by somebody else) and that all of the photos on IsAnybodyDown come from users of the site — not him.  According to Brittain, the allegations are a “fabrication” by attorney Marc Randazza (and other Brittain critics) to make money off of his site.  Or something.  Brittain says that “[t]here is no truth to it at all.  These women are told to lie by their attorneys.”

But allegations in a 2005 harassment charge and restraining order naming Brittain are unsurprisingly predictive of his future behavior: impersonating people on the internet in an effort to harm women online and offline.

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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.

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Anonymous Targets IsAnybodyDown.com, which Chance Trahan Claims He Doesn’t Run

A few brief updates about involuntary porn site IsAnybodyDown.com and its “Takedown Hammer” scheme.  If you’re just joining us, a synopsis of the IsAnybodyDown.com controversy is here.

[Update: Chance Trahan responds at length [PDF].  He denies running the site and says that talking about him is cybersquatting, among other things. More below.]

[Update 1/7/2013: Chance deleted the above post (though here’s a copy [PDF]) and replaced it with a new response.  It’s a copy/paste of this post edited to tell his side of the story.  Chance Trahan says that the “David Blade” / “Takedown Hammer” site is, alternatively, a “parody” or a “third party hiree.”  Chance says he only designed the site, its logos, and created its Facebook account — the idea and content are Craig’s.  Chance also maintains his claim that speaking negatively about or to him (without his permission) is “harassment” and “cybersquatting,” and that those criticizing him were hired to do so.  Chance also commented on this post, below]

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Charles Carreon (Almost) Concedes in Satirical Chas First Amendment Case

When we last jumped off the Charles Carreon train, he had finally been served after evading service in the Satirical Chas case.  As you might recall, Carreon was mighty upset that a satirical blogger had taken up residence at charles-carreon.com.  With a mighty roar and great bravado, Carreon issued one of the greatest censorious threats of internet history, raising the specter of a trademark infringement case and promising to litigate the unique trademark and First Amendment issues up and down the appellate courts.

It may be that Charles Carreon realized that the moment he stops making an ass of himself, Satirical Chas will start to run out of material and Carreon can fade back into the internet ether from which he came.  Or it may be that he doesn’t want to waste the time or money litigating a case he stands a good chance of losing.  Or maybe – just maybe — this holiday season, Charles Carreon’s heart grew three times in size and he realized the error of his ways.

For whatever reason, Charles Carreon is crying uncle.

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Charles Carreon (finally!) gets served in Satirical Charles case

You might recall that way back during the Oatmeal/Funnyjunk saga, Charles Carreon — the villainous attorney defeated in that story — went after an anonymous blogger, Satirical Charles.

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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.

IsAnybodyDown Part… Screw it: Craig Brittain and Chance Trahan Embrace Censorship

I didn’t want to write about this anymore for awhile, but oy vey, this is quite the flameout.

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IsAnybodyDown Part IV: More Evidence the People Pictured were Deceived — and Didn’t Consent

In earlier posts, I documented some evidence that the proprietors of involuntary-porn site IsAnybodyDown.com were culling their photos from unsuspecting Craigslist posters and discounted their nonsensical claims that everyone who appears on the site consented to be pictured there.  This post is largely a re-hash of that evidence — with some fun new discoveries.

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