New lawsuit against “revenge porn” site also targets GoDaddy

Jan 22, 2013
Legal
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So-called “involuntary porn” or “revenge porn” sites have continued to make more news—against the will of just about everyone featured on them.

Most famously, Hunter Moore’s site, IsAnybodyUp, pioneered the model: feature a site full of nude pictures of people, generally submitted against their will—and include their real name and hometown.

Moore eventually took his site down in the middle of last year, although he has hardly suffered for it. At its peak, the site was earning around $10,000 each month from ad revenue, based on 30 million page views, according to Moore. The porn mogul recently tweeted that he’s even starting his own TV show.

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The pictures are often posted by scorned exes. Moore has shown little sympathy for the people he features on his site. When a writer from the New York Observer asked him about their plight for a December story, Moore openly mocked his “victims” (as soon as he had finished setting up a deal to buy more cocaine, his current drug of choice.)

Mr. Moore made a motion with his hand to signify masturbation and rolled his eyes. “In a perfect world there would be no bullying and there would be no people like me and there would be no sites like mine,” he explained. “But we don’t live in a perfect world.”

After IsAnybodyUp went dark, an even sleazier imitator came around, named IsAnybodyDown. It features full names, and often phone numbers, of the ordinary people’s nude shots. Ars’ own Tim Lee reported on that site last year, noting that such sites test the boundaries of legal extortion, since the site features a service called “Takedown Hammer” which allows users to get off the site—if they pay up. Attorney Marc Randazza has even blogged about his plan to use copyright law to attack that site.

Last week, a new lawsuit was filed against a different “involuntary porn” site (which the plaintiffs call “revenge porn”). The suit [PDF] against Texxxan.com takes a more direct approach than Randazza: it alleges that creating “revenge porn” violates Texas state privacy laws.

The lawsuit includes 16 named plaintiffs and seeks class-action status for all the women featured on the site. (According to the lawsuit, Texxxan.com is dedicated to publishing only photos of “young women,” unlikely IsAnybodyDown which include a few nude males as well.)

Two of the named plaintiffs, Hollie Toups and Marianna Taschinger, are also telling their stories on a website called “End Revenge Porn,” which encourages victims of the practice and their sympathizers to lobby to amend the laws, so that “revenge porn is perceived to be a criminal act,” that state law enforcement can act upon.

“The victims of this act are unable to stop it from happening because law enforcement will not even allow these cases to be reported,” states the site on its “petition” page. “State police argue that the crime is occurring on the internet, which therefore crosses state lines and is out of their jurisdiction. The FBI claim that these cases are civil and/or do not threaten national security and should therefore be handled solely by lawyers.”

As for Texxxan.com, it has closed itself to the public and become a “members only” site since the filing of the lawsuit. Toups, who works for the state as a mentor for kids, described the site’s behavior to the New York Observer. When she e-mailed the site’s owners, “[t]hey replied and said they would be happy to remove the pictures for me if I would enter my credit card information,” Toups said. “I went from being depressed and embarrassed to being really pissed off.”

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