The California Attorney General’s office today announced that Kevin Bollaert, one of the operators of now-defunct revenge porn site YouGotPosted, was arrested and charged in a San Diego state court with thirty-one felony counts of identity theft and extortion. The complaint is here, but the arrest warrant contains much greater detail linking Bollaert to the site and its extortionate companion, “ChangeMyReputation.com”. I wrote in some detail about the ties between Bollaert, YouGotPosted, and the “independent takedown” website “ChangeMyReputation” last December.
These are first criminal charges filed against the operator of a revenge porn site in the United States. On first blush, although criminal law is by no means my forte, the complaint against Bollaert will be difficult to sustain: the Communications Decency Act bars certain state-level criminal charges against the operators of a website, assuming the identity theft charges treat Bollaert as the speaker (as opposed to the persons who provided the nude photos to him). Whether the extortion charges are barred by the CDA is a more complicated question.
Notably, the complaint repeatedly references a co-conspirator, and the arrest warrant notes that the site’s other proprietor, Eric Chanson, asked that Bollaert not associate Chanson’s name with the site in July of 2013. In August, Chanson told a Federal court that he had sold his share in the YouGotPosted enterprise to Bollaert in March. I am unaware of any information publicly available in July 2013 that would tie Chanson to the site, so it’s unclear why he would send such an email unless he were still somehow involved.
This is only the summit of Bollaert’s legal woes. In September, Bollaert and his company, Blue Mist Media, were hit with a $300,000 default judgment by a Federal court in Michigan.
More on this story as it develops and I have time to analyze the complaint against Bollaert.