Tag Archive for IsAnybodyDown.com

Tell the FTC: Craig Brittain Should Not Get a Slap on the Wrist for his Revenge Porn Site

Last month, the FTC announced it intends to enter into a consent agreement with Craig Brittain, the operator of revenge porn site “Is Anybody Down?”  Brittain pretended to be a woman on Craigslist to deceive women into sending him nude photos, mocked their pleas to remove the photos, then concocted an ‘independent’ but fake lawyer — “David Blade III” the “takedown hammer” — to extort them into paying $250 to remove the photos.

Since then, Brittain had the chutzpah to try to use copyright law — the same law he claimed didn’t apply to him — to try to get Google to delete references to the proposed settlement.

The FTC is currently soliciting comments from the public as to whether they should vote to accept the consent agreement.  They should not.  The FTC should proceed with litigation against Brittain for the reasons below.  While I am skeptical that the FTC will reverse course — the initial vote was unanimous — additional public pressure may sway the Commission.

These are, briefly, the reasons why the FTC should void the agreement and proceed with litigating its complaint against Brittain — and why you should send a brief comment of your own:

  1. Brittain’s victims are numerous and unlikely to speak up.  Comments submitted to the FTC are public.  Brittain’s scheme was a gamble that victims did not want to be associated with having nude photographs of themselves.  It is unlikely that victims will be willing to speak up and make a permanent and public record of that fact.
  2. Brittain should not be allowed to walk away with extortionate profits, and should instead be required to pay his victims back.  Britain claimed to be making upwards of $4,000 per month from his site.  He has since claimed that the FTC declined to impose financial penalties because he was able to prove that he wasn’t making money from the site and that he is too impoverished to make payments.  Yet Brittain also claims to be making “six figures” annually and claims to have recently purchased a luxury BMW to support Gamergate (somehow).  Brittain is lying either to the FTC or to the public.
  3. The FTC’s action is likely to deter further justice.  Brittain’s scheme was successful because he bet that his victims would pay a relatively modest sum in order to avoid the embarrassment of approaching authorities or attorneys.  As the FTC has now taken action, it is unlikely that any other agency — state or federal — will be motivated to hold Brittain accountable.  Those who copied him, however — including a homeless man — face years in prison.
  4. The evidence against Brittain is devastating.  From the Craigslist catfishing to the “David Blade” extortion scam, the public evidence against Brittain is overwhelming.  With little effort, the FTC could seek PayPal and banking records which would likely establish, beyond any standard required by law, that Brittain was the recipient of extortionate payments made to “David Blade”, the “takedown lawyer.”  Brittain’s story is impossibly contradictory and continues to unravel.
  5. The consent agreement will do little to deter revenge porn site operators, and the consent agreement largely requires Brittain to do only what the law already requires him to do.  Given victims’ fear of public criticism, it is unlikely that few are still willing to step forward to law enforcement, if they can find an agency willing to listen to them at all.  While California has taken initiative to target these sites, the vast majority of local, state, and federal law enforcement often view revenge porn sites as outside their jurisdiction — if they have the resources to identify the sites’ operators at all.  Site operators, in turn, now know that they can continue to extort, shutter their sites, and walk away with the profits — facing, at most, an agreement that they not do what the law already prohibits them from doing.

Public comments may be sent to the FTC up until this Monday, March 2, 2015, and can be sent online by clicking here.  If you’re at a loss for words, here’s some suggested text that you can copy and paste or modify to your leisure:

I oppose the proposed consent agreement in the matter of Craig Brittain.  While I applaud the Commission’s willingness to address exploitative scams like those perpetrated by Brittain, the proposed agreement permits Brittain to walk away with the profits he procured under fraudulent and extortionate pretenses.  Brittain’s brazen conduct should be squarely addressed and he should be required to disgorge his profits and return them to those who believed they were hiring an attorney (or independent firm) to remove their nude photos.  The proposed consent agreement does not do that.  Instead, Brittain is permitted to simply agree not to do what the law already prohibits him from doing while not admitting anything at all and, worse, makes a profit.  The Commission should withdraw from the agreement and take the appropriate action.

Or perhaps you disagree and think the FTC’s action is the right thing to do.  The argument can certainly be made that this ensures that Brittain will not resume his site, and the FTC’s argument that the practice was deceptive puts operators on notice.  Regardless, you should let the FTC know that this is an important issue.

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Craig Brittain Settles With FTC Over Revenge Porn Site “IsAnybodyDown”, “David Blade” Story Changes (Again)

It’s been almost two years since we last heard from Craig Brittain, one-time proprietor of revenge porn site “Is Anybody Down?”, but he has reappeared to apologize for the harm that his site laid upon its hundreds of victims, promising to make amends by returning the payments he extorted through his fake “lawyer,” “David Blade III.”

Just kidding.  Craig entered into a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over his site and, meanwhile, joined the feral tornado known as Gamergate. He’s busy setting the record straight about the conspiracy theories that birthed “David Blade.”  But it’s difficult to set the record straight when you can’t keep your story straight.

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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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IsAnybodyDown.com: Craig Brittain Still Can’t Keep His “David Blade” Story Straight

The Colorado Springs Independent has a feature story out today about Craig Brittain and his controversial site.  If you haven’t been following along, here’s a synopsis of the IsAnybodyDown.com controversy.

The article is worth a read, both because it lays out some of the controversy and because it gives Craig Brittain ample room to shed light on his side of the story.  Presented with this generous opportunity, Craig dissembles.  Craig is already claiming to have been significantly misquoted.

Months after this controversy began, these are the two big questions Craig has failed or refused to directly answer, and some discrepancies raised by Craig:

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Are you posted on IsAnybodyDown.com or YouGotPosted.com?

Are your nude photos posted on IsAnybodyDown.com or YouGotPosted.com? If so, I’d like to talk with you. I’ve written critically about both sites here and I am interested in finding out additional information about the sites, including more about how they get their pictures, how they respond to takedown requests, and the experience you’ve had as a result of being posted.

Anonymity guaranteed. I won’t reveal any identifying information without your permission or a lawful order (e.g., a subpoena).

Please note that I am not a lawyer and can’t help get your pictures removed. Another site has posted some tips on how to get pictures removed, but I can’t vouch for whether following its advice would be successful or legally prudent. I highly recommend that you contact an attorney.

You can email me (adam.steinbaugh@gmail.com) or find additional contact information on my “About” page.

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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IsAnybodyDown Part ???: Applicability of Section 230 of the CDA

With news outlets starting to pick up the IsAnybodyDown story (an overview is here) — among them Ars Technica and the Daily Dot — one misconception should be headed off at the pass: the site’s creators are not likely to be shielded from liability by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

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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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