Destined For Failure: Woman Sues Search Engines Over Revenge Porn Search Results

from the errors-in-target-selection dept

Someone else who doesn't understand Section 230 of the CDA is suing search engines for "refusing" to delist revenge porn. The short complaint -- filed in New York and spotted by Eric Goldman -- is signed by an actual lawyer, but the complaint is so devoid of legitimate (or any) legal arguments, it could be mistaken for a pro se attempt.

According to the complaint, a number of sexually explicit videos were posted to porn websites after a relationship went bad. The plaintiff contacted the websites and had the videos removed, which would seem to have solved the problem. But it didn't. According to the plaintiff, Yahoo, Bing, and Google searches for her name still bring up websites containing the explicit videos. Here's the wording used in the complaint [PDF]:

5. That Plaintiff contacted Defendants, Google, Yahoo, and Bing to remove the name ANGELE BRILIHON BOLOU ABODO from Defendants' web search engine.

6. That the search Plaintiff's full name on Defendants' website led and still leads to pornographic videos of the Plaintiff, and other derogatory comments aimed at the Plaintiff and containing Plaintiff's full name.

A search for her name does pull up everything she complains of. According to Abodo, these search results have prevented her from getting a job and have tarnished her reputation.

However, her complaint demands the removal of her name from search engines, which is an impossibility. She obviously wants the search results for her name removed, but hasn't actually asked for that in her complaint.

This filing will be sent back for amending as soon as a judge reads it, but applying some fixes to that particular language won't turn this into a winnable case. Her other efforts -- contacting websites to have the videos removed -- is something she's had some success with. It won't work with every site and there's almost no chance the "derogatory comments" scattered around the web will be removed, no matter how much she petitions these websites. But that's going to be far more productive than this litigation will be.

Section 230 gives the sites immunity for users' comments. It's also the reason targeting search engines isn't likely to result in delistings. Search engines return search results. They're in no way responsible for the content contained in the search results.

This is the easiest route -- far easier than tracking down those making the comments or posting the videos -- but it has about the same chances for success. Even with the damage being done to Section 230 by courts recently, it's going to take far more than this bare-bones pleading to even begin to mount a successful legal battle over unflattering search engine results.

But this short filing does lie at the crux of an issue where Section 230 is likely to receive the most collateral damage: revenge porn. Legislative efforts have been made in many states and, with almost no exceptions, the efforts include language that undermines the protections of Section 230 by attempting to shift some degree of culpability to service providers. The same sort of damage could result from a precedential ruling in a federal court if any revenge porn-based case makes it that far.

The underlying activity is horrendous and does a significant amount of damage to victims, but shifting the responsibility anywhere but the person posting the content poses the risk of opening up service providers to criminal charges and/or civil litigation -- something that would do tremendous harm to openness and freedom of the internet.

This isn't the case that's going to start that ball rolling, however. The actual perpetrators aren't listed as defendants, which means this is nothing more than a low-cost Hail Mary by Abodo and her legal rep.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 9:46am

    Good thing Mike got there first and penned the term Streisand Effect. Abodo Effect doesn't sound that cool.

    Ahem. Another shiny example of Ms Streisand in action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mattshow (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 10:05am

    What about the part of the filing where it states that

    "21. That at all times hereinafter mentioned, GOOGLE was and still is a web search engine operated by MICROSOFT."

    Microsoft must have been thrilled to learn this!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 10:14am

    When vanity gets you more attention than you expected....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2017 @ 10:53am

    I would like to thank Mike for including her full name in the article and not making have to type it in from the PDF filing. It was much easier to search when you can highlight/right click ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 10 Jan 2017 @ 11:10am

    So when will the idiot stamp be used on this one?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2017 @ 11:21am

    Already gone

    It looks like her lawyer already went to the sites listed in the search results. None of them have the video any longer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Already gone

      Hey, RIAA, MPAA are you listening to that! See that! You take down the sites that are the source of the problem. Then the links no longer work, and will disappear from search engines.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 12:02am

        Re: Re: Already gone

        But then they don't get to grandstand about how many notices they send to Google! It'll be obvious that their approach does nothing and they might actually have to adjust their business to the modern marketplace rather than demanding legal protections to enforce the old one! Can't have that...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:21am

      Re: Already gone

      You won't find it by searching google but it's not gone.

      I would have never found and watched it had she never filed this lawsuit. When will people learn that you can't censor the Internet and if you want something hidden don't bring attention to it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    streetlight (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 11:26am

    Some people seem not to understand or learn

    Perhaps a bit off topic, but if you make videos of very intimate interactions or any thing else and put them on a Web site, much less YouTube, they're likely to be there forever and available for anyone to see via a link. If you want those videos to be truly private, record them using a device that uses removable storage, not a device connected to the Internet like a smart phone, and never attach that storage to a device connected to the Internet - never! Of course this advice is almost useless because the folks who need it don't read techdirt and those who read techdirt already know it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mononymous Tim (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 11:49am

      Re: Some people seem not to understand or learn

      a number of sexually explicit videos were posted to porn websites after a relationship went bad

      AFTER

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        streetlight (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re: Some people seem not to understand or learn

        Very good point.

        The better advice is don't make explicit videos ever then there will be nothing to safeguard. In the original situation here, I presume the the partner of the complainant had a copy and posted them, but in other situations the female could do the same thing to a male. In that part of our society that's sexist, such videos might enhance the reputation of the male unless he's married or in a serious relationship with another, but who knows.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    AJ (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 12:34pm

    Republican action?

    So now that we have the GOP in charge of both houses and soon as POTUS, how long will it be before they take aim at CDA-230? Have the tech companies been paying^Wlobbying them enough to prevent it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 1:00pm

      Re: Republican action?

      Idea!

      If CDA-230 goes away, then the major web sites need to go dark just like they did for SOPA.

      I wonder what Hail To The Cheeto would say about not having Twitter available? After all, Twitter may not want to be legally or financially liable for anything Cheeto Face says.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 1:55pm

        Re: Re: Republican action?

        They won't 'need to', without 230 they'd pretty much have to. Running a site that hosts user-submitted content would be insanely risky without a law in place saying that sites aren't responsible for what their users post, especially given how massive penalties for copyright infringement can reach.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2017 @ 12:34pm

    The wrong way to go about things. But damn, I can see why she'd want that first link removed. It's got to be pretty demoralizing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 13 Jan 2017 @ 5:47am

      Re:

      That is outright cruelty but unfortunately per the letter of the law it's protected speech. That poor woman, I do feel for her, but she needs to know this: people saying nasty things about you doesn't spoil your reputation, it makes THEM look bad.

      I've got enough experience of this to know that if you behave well yourself and your own personal online activity depicts you as a decent and reasonable person, that's how people will see you. As for the sex tape, again, it just makes the poster look bad: would you buy a used car from that man or entrust him with personal information? I think not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 12:49pm

    We threw a filing fee into the well & we're hoping to catch a settlement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2017 @ 4:25pm

    Having just written a short piece about the right to be forgotten in Europe, this is intriguing. I wonder if this is more a prelude to a tort case against the ex - if the links linger for a while, even after the content is removed from the website, she has a case for continuing economic harm and emotional distress.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 4:48pm

    This is wrong on so many levels. What you've done is Gawkerish. The blood is now on your hands too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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