FTC Orders Revenge-Porn Site Taken Down

The agency says the website violated fair business practice laws.

A man surfs the internet in Beijing on June 15, 2009. The designers of controversial Internet filtering software that China has ordered shipped with all new computers said they were trying to fix security glitches in the programme in the latest blow to the plan to include the filtering software with all PCs sold in China from July 1, which has been criticised overseas and even in China as a bid at mass censorship and a threat to personal privacy. Researchers at the University of Michigan who examined the software last week said it contained serious security vulnerabilities that could allow outside parties to take control of computers running it via remote access. Chinese authorities have a history of blocking sites that feature porn or politically unacceptable subjects such as the brutal crackdown on Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in 1989 and the banned spiritual group Falungong.
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
Add to Briefcase
Kaveh Waddell
Jan. 29, 2015, 7:50 a.m.

The op­er­at­or of a re­venge-porn web­site has been banned from shar­ing nude pho­tos and videos on­line after a Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion in­vest­ig­a­tion found he was in vi­ol­a­tion of fair busi­ness prac­tice laws.

The web­site’s op­er­at­or, Craig Brit­tain, agreed in a set­tle­ment with the FTC to des­troy all the pho­tos and videos he col­lec­ted. He will no longer be al­lowed to share nude pho­tos of wo­men without their con­sent, but he was not fined for the vi­ol­a­tion.

The FTC al­leges that Brit­tain tricked wo­men in­to send­ing him nude pho­tos of them­selves, which he then pub­lished on­line. Brit­tain re­ferred the wo­men who wanted their pho­tos taken down to an­oth­er site, where he posed as a law­yer and charged between them $200 to $500 to take down the pho­tos, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

“This be­ha­vi­or is not only il­leg­al but rep­re­hens­ible,” said Jes­sica Rich, dir­ect­or of the FTC’s Bur­eau of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion. “I am pleased that as a res­ult of this set­tle­ment, the il­leg­ally col­lec­ted im­ages and in­form­a­tion will be de­leted, and this in­di­vidu­al can nev­er re­turn to the so-called ‘re­venge porn’ busi­ness.”

Brit­tain re­quired that users who sent him the pho­tos also sub­mit ex­tens­ive identi­fy­ing in­form­a­tion about the pho­tos’ sub­jects, such as name, age, phone num­ber, and a link to their Face­book page, the FTC says. Many of the sub­mis­sions came from men send­ing pho­to­graphs of wo­men, ac­cord­ing to the FTC com­plaint.

He also set up a “bounty sys­tem,” the com­plaint al­leges, which al­lowed users to of­fer re­wards of at least $100 to so­li­cit com­prom­ising pho­tos of someone else. Brit­tain col­lec­ted half the bounty if the re­quest was ful­filled, the com­plaint says.

If one of the more than 1,000 wo­men ex­posed by Brit­tain’s web­site con­tac­ted him to get her pho­tos taken down, Brit­tain would refer her to web­sites for con­tent-re­mov­al ser­vices known as “Take­down Law­yer” or “Take­down Ham­mer,” the FTC said. But he also owned those sites, and he charged hun­dreds of dol­lars to re­move pho­tos he had pos­ted on his site, earn­ing him­self about $12,000 over the course of the two years the site was live, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

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