Marc Randazza Weighs In on Current State of Revenge Porn
LOS ANGELES — This has been a watershed few weeks for the fight against revenge porn.
Last week The Federal Trade Commission effectively banned former revenge porn site operator Craig Brittain from posting nude photos or videos of women without their consent.
Yesterday another high-profile revenge porn offender, Kevin Bollaert, was convicted of 27 charges, including identity theft and extortion, and now faces up to 20 years in jail.
Some media outlets have interpreted the FTC’s quashing of Brittain as the beginning of the end of revenge porn — and the decision may not have been possible without the early anti-revenge porn efforts of adult industry attorney Marc Randazza.
It all began in October 2012, when Randazza published a blog post, “Take Down ‘David Blade, Attorney at Law’ and IsAnybodyDown.com — Who’s With Me?”
Randazza saw that so-called attorney David Blade III was offering to help remove nude photos from the revenge porn site IsAnybodyDown.com for a $250 fee (payable through Paypal), and smelled something fishy.
With a bit of sleuthing he found that the domains for IsAnyBodyDown and TakeDownLawyer.com were registered to same person — Blade — but that no one by that name was listed in the directory of attorneys in New York, where he claimed to practice as a public defender.
In fact, Blade was really Brittain, who posted nude pictures of unsuspecting victims and profited by removing them under the guise of his fake lawyer alias.
Randazza offered victims of “these crooks” pro bono help, and said that some weeks he spent more than 30 percent of his time working on the cases that came flooding in.
Fast forward to three years later: revenge porn has garnered significant attention from legislators and activists across the country, contributing to the demise of Brittain and Bollaert's operations and the passage of anti-revenge porn laws in several states. Just five days ago, the New York Times reported on a new initiative by K&L Gates, a Pittsburgh-based law firm, which launched a Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project in September to help victims of revenge porn.
But Randazza is weary of the mainstream attention and the means used to take down offenders.
“Now that the sites are mostly down, as a result of our (and two other guys: Jason VanDyke and James McGibney of BullyVille.com) efforts, we now see a lot of public attention and parties rushing to pretend that they really give a shit,” Randazza told XBIZ. “Even worse are the laws that legislators are falling over themselves to pass, which criminalize revenge porn. As much as I find the practice abhorrent, I haven't seen a single one of these laws that was not unconstitutional. And the thought of someone sitting in prison because of a law that violates the First Amendment? That bothers me more than revenge porn.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has also expressed concerns over state’s revenge porn laws, which, if written too broadly, can unintentionally threaten free speech.
The ACLU, along with several book store owners and alt weeklies, successfully blocked Arizona’s revenge porn law from going into effect this September, claiming it violated the First Amendment and made anyone distributing or displaying a nude image without explicit permission guilty of a felony. The plaintiffs noted several examples that could be prosecuted under the law, including a college professor handing out pictures of the famous photograph “Napalm Girl,” which depicts a young burned nude girl running from her bombed village during the Vietnam war.
While L.A. man Bollaert was the first person to be sentenced under California's new state law that made revenge porn a misdemeanor, he was not charged under the statute.
“Ultimately, the problem will only be solved if 47 U.S.C. § 230 [protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material] gets slightly amended, and perhaps if the U.S. starts giving more attention to personal privacy issues,” Randazza said. “Until then, you're never going to see an actual end to the problem. But it makes no sense at all that you can't even get effective injunctive relief in most cases.”
In line with his alternative approach to combatting cyber harassment, Randazza in May 2013 filed two civil cases against Bollaert's UGotPosted.com on counts of distributing child pornography and failing to comply with 18 U.S.C. § 2257.