A particularly virulent strain of vermin named Craig Brittain recently settled charges with the Federal Trade Commission arising from Brittain’s operation of several Web sites specializing in revenge porn. Revenge porn is an emerging online practice whereby people post intimate photos and videos of ex-lovers taken in better times.
According to the FTC, from November 2011 to April 2013, Brittain owned, operated, and conducted all business on a Web site called www.isanybodydown.com. On the Web site, Brittain posted personal information and photographs of individuals with their intimate parts exposed.
The FTC says Brittain used three different methods to obtain photographs for the Web site. First, Brittain encouraged and solicited individuals to submit, anonymously, photographs of other individuals with their intimate parts exposed for posting on the Web site. Not shockingly, most submitters were men sending photographs of women.
Brittain may be sleazy, but he is organized. He required that all submissions include at least two photographs, one of which had to be a full or partial nude, as well as the subject’s full name, date of birth (or age), town and state, a link to the subject’s Facebook profile, and phone number. Brittain compiled the photographs and personal information, posted them on the Web site, and in some instances, posted additional personal information he’d independently located about the subjects.
Second, Brittain posed as a woman on Craigslist and, after sending other women photographs purportedly of himself, solicited photographs of them with their intimate parts exposed in return. If they sent such photographs, Brittain posted them on the Web site without their knowledge or permission.
Third, and just in case you thought he couldn’t be more of a deviant, Brittain instituted a “bounty system” on the Web site, whereby anyone could request that others find and post photos of a specific person in exchange for a reward of at least $100. Brittain collected a “standard listing fee” of $20 for each request and half of all rewards given.
After obtaining the photographs, Brittain grouped the photographs on the Web site by the state of residence of the photograph’s subject. Visitors to the Web site could post comments about the photographs. Such comments often included derogatory and sexually explicit language directed at the subject of the photograph. Brittain touted the Web site as superior to similar Web sites because his Web site produced a “higher level of hatred” than other Web sites. During the time the Web site operated, Brittain posted personal information and photographs of over 1,000 people with their intimate parts exposed.
Women whose photographs appeared on the Web site often contacted Brittain to request that he remove the images. They reported that they suffered significant harm from having their photographs and personal information, including location information, posted on the site. Some received unwelcome contacts from strangers, including requests for additional photographs. Many worried about harm to their reputations because their friends, family, and co-workers could easily see the photographs if they conducted a simple Internet search for the subject’s name. Others were concerned that they might be fired from a current job, or not hired for a future job, if the photos were discovered. In many instances, Brittain did not remove the content in response to removal requests.
Brittain, always looking to make a buck, also advertised content removal services on the Web site. In these advertisements, purported third parties identified as “Takedown Hammer” and “Takedown Lawyer” promised to have consumers’ content removed from the Web site in exchange for a payment of $200 to $500. The advertisements referred interested consumers to www.takedownhammer.com and www.takedownlawyer.com, for further information. In fact, Brittain himself owned these Web sites, and posed as a third party to obtain money to remove the same photographs that he had posted.
During the time he operated the Web site, Brittain earned about $12,000. According to the FTC, Brittain engaged in deceptive acts by distributing intimate photos for commercial gain, knowing that the people depicted had an expectation of privacy in the photos.
In the settlement, Brittain agreed to shut down the business and not engage in any similar activity at any time in the future. The settlement also allows the FTC to keep tabs on Brittain and his activities for the next ten years.
The good news from all this is that Brittain is shut down. And anyone else out there who wants to profit from revenge porn is likely to take notice. The bad news is that the FTC can’t do anything unless there is some financial gain involved. Mean spirited ex-lovers who post photos purely out of spite aren’t subject to this order or the FTC’s reach.