Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
cda 230, ftc, intermediary liability, revenge porn

Companies:
myex



FTC Takes Down Another Revenge Porn Site

from the an-apparent-impossibility-given-the-lack-of-a-federal-revenge-porn-law dept

There ought to be a law, say many people opposed to revenge porn. And so they craft laws with an eye on prosecution but not so much on the First Amendment, tending to treat collateral damage as acceptable so long as revenge porn site operators are criminally charged. But the proposed laws are more than bad, they're extraneous. Existing laws are still taking down revenge porn purveyors, as we've covered previously at this site.

The FTC has taken down another revenge porn site and secured a judgment against one of its operations, all without having to having to hack away at protected speech or undermine Section 230 immunity. MyEx.com -- a site "dedicated solely to revenge porn" -- has been targeted in an FTC complaint.

According to the complaint, visitors to MyEx.com can rate the videos and pictures they see and post comments about the victims. At various times, the site included victims’ full date of birth, personal email address, telephone number, and links to social media profiles, along with the intimate images.

The FTC alleges that the defendants were aware that many of the individuals did not agree to having their intimate images and personal information posted to MyEx.com. As of December 2017, there were approximately 12,620 entries on the site, according to the complaint.

The complaint [PDF] contains extensive documentation of the site runners' activities, including charging people anywhere from $499 up to $2,800 for removal of pictures and information, as well as the site's operator creating a wholly (and admittedly) fictitious business entity to hide behind.

Defendant Applegate registered the domain MyEx.com through domain name registrar GoDaddy from November 2011 through at least June 2013. He provided GoDaddy the email address shad@myex.com as his contact address.

In May of 2013, GoDaddy informed Defendant Applegate of reports of child exploitation and underage content on MyEx.com. GoDaddy also informed Defendant Applegate that an investigator from an internet-crimes-against-children taskforce and a police detective were attempting to get in touch with the website operators.

Also in May 2013, Defendant Applegate changed the contact name provided to GoDaddy for the MyEx.com website to “Eun Kim” and changed the contact address to Singel 540, 1017 AZ Amsterdam, Netherlands, while leaving the contact email address as shad@myex.com for a period of time. After GoDaddy inquired about this change, Defendant Applegate told GoDaddy in a message, “its [sic] not a company it’s a made up name for the address & [sic]; phone number in the Netherlands. The [expletive] domain is in my godaddy [sic] account.” Defendant Applegate then moved MyEx.com to a different registrar, Eurodns. He provided Eurodns the contact name “Eun Kim” and changed MyEx.com to be associated with the fictional business entity, Web Solutions B.V. He provided a contact address of Singel 540, 1017 AZ Amsterdam, Netherlands, which was the same address he told GoDaddy that he made up.

This fictitious address was also used to ignore DMCA complaints and other requests for removal of content.

Under the “Contact Us” page, the site stated, “Myex.com has no removals [sic] policy. If you are an adult who has been submitted to this site tough luck [sic].” The page went on to state, “If you have the need to send mail please address it to MyEx.com c/o Web Solutions B.V. Attn Legal Department DMCA Complaints. Websolutions Netherlands, Singel 540 1017 Amsterdam The Netherlands Attn: Legal Department.”

Paid removals were handled in a similarly shady fashion. The site's operators made those seeking content removal wire money to someone named "Shelly Mae Garcia" who supposedly lived in the Philippines. Those who refused to pay the extortion were invited to send snail mail to the fake address in the Netherlands.

The FTC finds the site owners to be in violation of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices by business entities. As is detailed in the complaint, there's no shortage of evident harm created by the site's posting of intimate photos without the consent of those depicted, along with as much personal info (names, addresses, social media accounts) as the site could harvest.

The settlement [PDF] with one of the site's owners, Neil Infante, prohibits him from posting intimate photos without the explicit, written consent of the photo's subject. It also subjects Infante to 20 years of FTC monitoring and a $205,000 fine. (It appears the FTC will only be able to collect $15,000 of this fine. The FTC's press release states the rest of the fine will be suspended as Infante has shown "an inability to pay more.") Infante is also prohibited from charging takedown fees for any content whose removal is requested. The FTC is still seeking to obtain judgments against the other participants in the revenge porn operation and is ordering Infante to turn over as much info as he has on his revenge porn colleagues.

This revenge porn operation is effectively dead. The nonconsensual part of the operation is blocked by the FTC judgment and the inability to charge removal fees pretty eliminates the most profitable revenue stream. It's unclear what the future holds for Neil Infante, but it appears the Republican Senate race in Ohio (Infante's home state) is suddenly in need of a new frontrunner. Perhaps FTC judgment recipient and former revenge porn site operator Craig Brittain could send his colleague a few ideas on to how to MAGA the hell out of the nation as a Senate race bottom-feeder.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 4:53pm

    An ICANN complaint over invalid contact details could've had that site down in days but sure, do it the hard way.

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