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
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.
- I don’t know whether law enforcement relied on my research in targeting Bolleart. I can only hope. ↩
- 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. ↩