Revenge Porn: A Nasty Business

Logo from Revenge Porn WebsiteI’ve previously written about the practice of “revenge porn” — when someone (typically a spurned lover, and typically male) posts revealing or sexually explicit pictures of someone else as a way of getting revenge after a relationship has failed.

In my earlier post, I talked about various ways copyright law was being used to protect the victims, who often took the photos/videos themselves and are therefore the “creator” and owner of the copyright in the images.

There’s now a new way to fight revenge porn: via Federal Trade Commission (FTC) action against unfair and/or deceptive business practices.

A Revenge Porn “Business Model”

Craig Brittain, owner and operator of the Colorado Springs-based revenge porn website isanybodydown.com was ordered by the FTC to shut the site down.

Brittain had three different ways of collecting explicit photographs:

  1. He asked people to submit nude photos of people along with identifying information – including full names, city, state, phone number, link to Facebook profile. He also asked for statements like “Her husband caught her cheating… she has 3 kids… and she’s getting divorced… and sending nudes to guys and girls on the internet.” These are the “revenge porn” listings.
  2. Brittain posed as a woman, and sent other women pictures of “herself,” asking for their pictures in return. Pictures he received were posted on his website, without the women’s knowledge or consent.
  3. He put in place a “bounty” system, where people could ask for nude photos of a particular person in exchange for a “reward” of at least $100. Brittain kept a “listing fee” and half of any rewards handed out.

Of course Brittain knew that most people would not want nude pictures of themselves on the internet. Ever the entrepreneur, he came up with a scheme to extort money from the victims to take the pictures down.

He created ads from supposed third parties such as “Take Down Hammer” and “Takedown Lawyer” that said they would get the content removed from the website for a payment of $200 to $500.

FTC Violations

The FTC had two counts against Brittain in its complaint:

Count I, regarding “methods” 1 and 3 above for collecting photos:

Respondent’s practices, [disseminating explicit photos with personal information without the subjects’ knowledge or permission], have caused or were likely to have caused substantial injury to consumers that is not reasonably avoidable by consumers and is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition. These practices were, and are, unfair acts or practices.

Count II, regarding “method” 2 above:

In fact, Respondent did not use such photographs solely for his personal private use, but disseminated them through the Website with personal information about the individual and for commercial gain. Therefore, the representation…is false or misleading.

FTC Shutdown

Brittain’s victims can take comfort knowing the website has been taken down and that as part of the agreement he signed with the FTC he can never return to his business practices. The FTC now has the right to monitor his internet activity.

Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press release: This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible. 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.


(Photo Credit: "Is Anybody Down Logo" by Borustopher) Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use.

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