While the Internet provides many obvious advantages to people in this digital age, it can also enable a dark side for those intent on mischievous and criminal online behavior. “Revenge porn” is part of that dark side.
So, what is revenge porn? It usually consists of a nude photograph or video which is publicly shared online (most frequently by an ex-lover of the nude subject) for the purpose of spiteful humiliation.
The nude photograph or video generally is recorded when the couple is in a positive relationship, and then later is shown to the world on the Internet after the relationship has crumbled, most often by the male posting nude content of his female ex.
There also are revenge porn ransom websites. Specifically, such a website posts nude photos and videos provided by ex-lovers of their former lovers, and then offers to take down the content if paid a certain amount of money. The Federal Trade Commission has been seeking to root out these types of websites.
As a recent example, the FTC took action against Craig Brittain, who allegedly operated a website from 2011 to 2013 that displayed nude photos of women; at the same time, he was accused of operating another site that enabled those women to pay between $200 and $500 to have the photos removed.
Brittain allegedly sought nude photos of women and their contact information, and also allegedly created a bounty scheme that offered financial incentives to provide nude photos of women and their contact information to him. Brittain allegedly received nude images of more than 1,000 women as a result of his efforts.
The FTC was able to achieve a settlement of its action. Brittain must destroy all nude images he obtained, and he is banned from sharing similar nude images in the future. Essentially, Brittain is out of the revenge porn business forever. Brittain was not forced to pay any fines.
Plainly, it is a good thing that Brittain will not engage in further revenge porn activities. And, the FTC certainly wants to make an example of him to prevent revenge porn by others going forward.
However, is simply stopping Brittain from further revenge porn without any other penalty enough to get the job done as a deterrent? Hopefully, others will want to stay clear of the FTC in this area; on the other hand, if the worst case in their view is that they simply will be forced by the FTC to stop, that might not be sufficient to deter their revenge porn behavior, unfortunately.