Turns Out The FTC Was Paying Close Attention To Revenge Porn Idiot Craig Brittain

from the and-the-results-are-in dept

Remember Craig Brittain? He was the guy who set up a revenge porn site called "Is Anybody Down?," and got a lot of attention for also having a separate site called "Takedown Lawyer" which claimed to be a lawyer named David Blade III, who would get naked pictures taken down from Is Anybody Down for "just" $250. Of course, as multiple people noticed, there was a tremendous amount of evidence that Brittain and Blade were one and the same, which meant that not only was Brittain likely impersonating a lawyer (a no no), but also potentially engaging in extortion. Brittain then made some news trying to get some criticism of him taken down via a bogus DMCA notice... targeting posts at Popehat of all places. He should have consulted the "lawyer" David Blade for some advice on that one.

Brittain has popped up here and there over the past couple of years since that debacle. Back in early 2013, Ken "Popehat" White noted that the wheels grind slowly on investigations like those over Brittain's actions. But they do grind. And they've finally ground their way to a settlement decree with the FTC that says Brittain can never operate a revenge porn site again. It also calls out the whole fake lawyer scam. You can see all the details in the complaint and the settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, Brittain is required to permanently delete all of the images and other personal information he received during the time he operated the site. He will also be prohibited from publicly sharing intimate videos or photographs of people without their affirmative express consent, as well as being prohibited from misrepresenting how he will use any personal information he collects online.
Also, beyond just the official announcement about this settlement, the FTC put up two totally separate blog posts, in rather conversational tone, completely trashing Brittain and revenge porn. First is the one on the FTC's blog about "letting the facts speak for themselves" which starts out thusly:

This post about the FTC’s law enforcement action against Craig Brittain will be a little different. No bullet points parsing the nuances of complaint allegations. No tips and takeaways for savvy marketers. No admonitions about industry best practices. Given that the “industry” in question is revenge porn, the facts pretty much speak for themselves.

Mr. Brittain’s now-defunct site – isanyonedown.com – featured an assortment of explicit photos and personal information about the people in the pictures. Why this FTC foray into the seamier side of technology? Because according to the complaint, what Mr. Brittain did violated the FTC Act. And when it comes to Section 5 violations, the FTC is most definitely not down with that.

And then on the FTC's "Consumer Information" blog, a separate post was put up with the title Is Anybody Horrified? which attacks the whole concept of revenge porn, first discussing the specifics of the Brittain case, before noting:
But there’s also a warning here for other revenge porn websites with similar practices: cut it out.
In the FTC's complaint itself, there's some interesting stuff that suggests that, even if it grinds away a bit slowly, the FTC feels that it has the tools and power to take on (and down) revenge porn sites. The "unfair practices" that Brittain engaged in includes:
Respondent disseminated photographs of individuals with their intimate parts exposed, along with personal information of such individuals, through the Website for commercial gain and without the knowledge or consent of those depicted, when he knew or should have known that the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the image would not be disseminated through the Website for commercial gain.

Respondent's practices, as set forth in Paragraph 13, 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.
That's rather interesting -- and I wonder if it's actually truly within the powers of the FTC to determine that, but I can't see too many people challenging it when the FTC is going after folks like Brittain. However, it does highlight how (contrary to the claims of some) we might not need new free speech suppressing laws to fight back against revenge porn.

That said, as Ken White notes, some may be disappointed that Brittain doesn't have to pay anything or isn't going to jail. But, White notes that punishment is likely to have an impact:
1. This suggests the FTC determined he had no assets worth taking.

2. If he violates the order, the FTC can file against him in federal court. The resulting civil/administrative process only bears the most remote resemblance to due process. It will be ridiculously easy for the FTC to shut down and confiscate any new enterprise he starts for the next 20 years. The clients I've seen be most mercilessly and thoroughly screwed without pretense of fairness have been FTC defendants in federal court.

3. Craig Brittain is now subject to a permanent and relationship-and-career-debilitating stigma. Employers, lenders, landlords and others won't necessarily pick up internet drama. But you can bet that they'll pick up on an FTC consent order. Craig may want to change his name to something without such baggage, like maybe Pustule Nickelback McHitler III.
It goes on from there, but you get the idea. This will stick to Brittain.

Meanwhile, Adam Steinbaugh had already been working on a long and detailed post about the many lies and story changes from Brittain about the site and just who "David Blade III" really is. The FTC statement makes it clear that Brittain and Blade are the same, but Brittain has long denied that, though his reasoning always changes. You should read the entire Steinbaugh post, which is quite detailed, but here's a snippet:

From this, and elsewhere, we can glean some important ‘facts':

Somehow, I get the feeling we haven't heard the last of Pustule Nickelback McHitler III.



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