Revenge Porn Sleuth Profiled in Forbes
LOS ANGELES — Inspired by the work of adult industry attorney Marc Randazza, revenge porn site vigilante Adam Steinbaugh is the focus of a profile in Forbes magazine.
The 31-year old Los Angeles law clerk is a real-life Internet Sherlock Holmes who tracks down revenge porn sites and helps bring the “perps” to justice through his blog.
Forbes said that his work has helped expose the “white-hat hacker”/porn actor behind Texxxan, the duo running YouGotPosted, and the Oklahoman drummer operating WinByState.
“I was really pissed off at what was being done to these men and women and wanted to do something about it,” Steinbaugh said. His typical modus operandi is to publicly shame the operators in hopes that they’ll take down the sites
But Steinbaugh's courage doesn’t some without concern. He said he’s received death threats and has been threatened with lawsuits.
“I don’t know if my public shaming approach has been effective. I don’t know if any of these guys would care about being posted on some Adam guy’s blog,” Steinbaugh said. “But making the information I’ve developed available to attorneys and victims is helpful if they sue.”
A former MySpace security abuse specialist, Steinbaugh started his sleuthing after finishing Loyola law school in 2012. He said Randazza’s work on the phony lawyer site IsAnybodyDown was his inspiration.
“Adam’s research skills and tenacity are awe inspiring,” Randazza told Forbes. “I think that Adam has been a pretty powerful force in the fight against involuntary porn. I’ve personally used his research, and I’ve seen files that he’s provided to law enforcement world wide.”
Steinbaugh uses his Internet skills to out the bad guys that include a WhoIs search and the use of DomainTools. He also uses archive.org to look at the history of a site and its Terms of Service to find any identifying clues. He’ll also search email metadata. He found information associated with messages that linked the IsAnybodyDown operator’s email to the bogus lawyer’s email address. Steinbaugh also snoops on the programming or affiliate code looking for clues to someone’s identity. “These guys use the same affiliate code which they use on other websites that are more legitimate, so I can see that website A and revenge porn website B have the same affiliate code,” he said.
Sometimes he finds the creeps through anonymous sources, or by contacting the victims. He said newbie revenge site operators often post photos of people they know.
“Attorneys rely on him for in-depth analysis of revenge porn website owners, their identities, and their assets, so he’s the backbone of the majority of these revenge porn lawsuits,” said Bekah Wells, the operator of WomenAgainstRevengePorn.com. “From a victim’s perspective, he’s one of the few people who I trust in this movement; he’s been there for us since day one. I always joke that he never sleeps. The only reason I know that he does is because I once called him and woke him up.”
Aptly described as an unsung hero, Steinbaugh’s work is seemingly only a drop in the bucket, with the article pointing out that there are more than 40 such sites still in existence.But the web detective believes his work — along with society’s backlash — is helping to shut the sites down.