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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.


Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 12:09pm

    Typo?

    The settlement [PDF] with one of the site's owners, Neil Infante, prohibits him from posting intimate photos with the explicit, written consent of the photo's subject.

    Should that be "without?"

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

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 11 Jan 2018 @ 12:35pm

    Why no prison time?

    I'm not understanding why he doesn't get a few years in prison too.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 11 Jan 2018 @ 5:47pm

      Re: Why no prison time?

      Because if the copyright on the photos was lawfully licensed to him, then it's not a crime for him to charge a fee for the removal.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 12:39pm

    Internet Police

    FTC was established in 1913 to regulate the internet and its content -- do you have some objection to the Constitution and law & order ?

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

    • identicon
      Jordan Chandler, 11 Jan 2018 @ 1:28pm

      Re: Internet Police

      Amazing since the internet was invented 50 years after that

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 2:07pm

        Re: Re: Internet Police

        LOL - too funny

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 4:19pm

        Re: Re: Internet Police

        >>> "Amazing since the internet was invented 50 years after that"

        The timeline doesn't matter, sonny, nor what "technology" has become or follows from now. Your comment doesn't even make sense to a reasonable person. I think you confused it with FCC, for start.

        The Federal TRADE Commission came about to deal with the evils that corporations were doing, then, now, and in future, just as the US Constitution was designed to prevent The Rich from easily controlling all. The Constitution is still up-to-date, just needs following: here, that means FTC should take the common good of We The People as its goal, under common law principles -- as appears did.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 2:03pm

    I thought the actions typically found at such sites amounts to extortion, which as far as I know is still illegal. Is it the site or the poster that makes the monetary demands?

    Even if one were to accept that section 230 protects the site, the person who posts there is not protected.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 4:05pm

    If this didn't "undermine Section 230 immunity" it's because that isn't absolute as TD claims!

    Sheesh. After years asserting that Section 230 absolutely protects web-sites from liability for whatever users put up, HERE minion just has the cake and eats it too!

    If there's ever been any support from TD fanboys for my view that common law over-arches ALL statute, I've missed it. No matter how often I'm right, I get no respect. No matter how often TD blithely reverses, it never astonishes the fanboys, who seem to have less than two-hour memory. Next time Section 230 comes up, it'll again be regarded as absolute protection that must not be weakened. Even though can take down sites and prosecute despite it.

    Indeed, why aren't you kids wailing at attack on 230 and the site's Free Speech? -- Because you DO recognize that there IS over-arching common law, even though lately are numerous comments disparaging it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 4:28pm

      Re: If this didn't "undermine Section 230 immunity" it's because that isn't absolute as TD claims!

      Techdirt has not reversed, the owners of Backpages are being investigated because there is evidence that leads to the belief that they carried out illegal acts. Section 230 only protects them from being held responsible for the actions of others, and allows them to moderate their site without becoming responsible for the actions of others.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 4:31pm

        Re: Re: If this didn't "undermine Section 230 immunity" it's because that isn't absolute as TD claims!

        >>> Section 230 only protects them from being held responsible for the actions of others -- Uh huh, but the clear evidence is that Backpage aided crimes, and that's why Section 230 should be revised: it's TOO MUCH protection too easily abused.

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

        • icon
          orbitalinsertion (profile), 13 Jan 2018 @ 8:27am

          Re: Re: Re: If this didn't "undermine Section 230 immunity" it's because that isn't absolute as TD claims!

          Except 230 doesn't protect, and hasn't protected anyone, including Backpage operators, from being prosecuted for crimes they actually or allegedly committed.

          You still have no point here, and neither techdirt nor anyone else supporting the existence of Section 230 reversed on anything. Why would 230 protect those who run a site as a criminal enterprise? The answer is: It doesn't. But when your personal theory, which is yours, claims that we all just want to support criminals (because, you know, reasons), you have nothing else to make an argument with. All you can do is rinse and repeat.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 5:39pm

      Re: If this didn't "undermine Section 230 immunity" it's because that isn't absolute as TD claims!

      You look very confused

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 12 Jan 2018 @ 7:07am

      Re: If this didn't "undermine Section 230 immunity" it's because that isn't absolute as TD claims!

      Blue, show me ONE example where common law over-arches ANY statute. I can wait.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 4:29pm

    Hey, maybe FTC is becoming active!

    Due to Trump's agenda, which isn't at all what Techdirt imagines it to be -- Techdirt sides with the Deep State.

    Anyway, this is certainly good sign of how an activist gov't should work. Take out the egregious cases, then others don't become egregious.

    Next need anti-trust targeting Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook, for start. -- First with missiles. Also good places to try out killer droids, quite apropos.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 5:44pm

      Re: Hey, maybe FTC is becoming active!

      The Deep State - LOL

      Lizard People vs the Illuminati ... who will win?

      Does Scientology really think Xenu brought billions of his people to Earth in DC-8 and stacked them around volcanoes and killed them with hydrogen bombs?

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 13 Jan 2018 @ 8:33am

      Re: Hey, maybe FTC is becoming active!

      Trump's agenda is... Trump.

      I'm surprised the FTC had enough funding to do it. Uh, activist government? Whatever. But the FTC is the Deep State. OK then.

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

  • 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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2018 @ 8:07pm

    out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Jan 2018 @ 6:54am

    But, but, we need SESTA to stop those things! LAWS! RAAAWR

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

  • identicon
    Melinda, 13 Feb 2018 @ 6:57pm

    My ex posted photos of me on that site and they remained up until it was shut down. 4 1\2 years. I've been working with crimes in NYC and planned on using them. Just found out. I think they should be in jail for sure. Gonna call my detective tomorrow.

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


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