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      Alleged Revenge Porn Webmaster Faces Trial in California

      Alleged Revenge Porn Webmaster Faces Trial in California Alleged Revenge Porn Webmaster Faces Trial in California Alleged Revenge Porn Webmaster Faces Trial in California
      Photo by Alex Turner

      Crime & Drugs

      Alleged Revenge Porn Webmaster Faces Trial in California

      By Jordan Larson

      Vengeful internet pervs, take note…

      After weighing evidence from prosecutors in a preliminary hearing, a San Diego court has ruled that the case against 27-year-old Kevin Bollaert — who is accused of hosting thousands of explicit images of women on a website and extorting money to have them removed — will go to trial in July.

      Bollaert is the alleged operator of the revenge porn website ugotposted.com, where the uploaders of some 10,000 graphic photos of women were required to include their names, locations, and social media accounts, which appeared alongside the images. Bollaert is also believed to have run another site called changemyreputation.com that offered to remove images from the first site, charging victims as much as $350 each to do so.

      Women whose information was posted on ugotposted.com complained of being persistently harassed on social media, over the phone, via email, and even at work. Many of them feared for their safety.

      California law makes it illegal “to willfully obtain someone’s personal identifying information, including name, age and address, for any unlawful purpose, including with the intent to annoy or harass.”

      Upskirt photos and revenge porn laws share barely legal gray area. Read more here.

      The case is the first against an operator of a revenge porn site rather than a single poster, according to the California attorney general’s office. Bollaert faces 31 counts of identity theft, extortion, and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty. Authorities say that Bollaert told investigators he was making about $900 a month from advertising, but PayPal records indicated that he had also received tens of thousands of dollars from users paying to have their images removed.

      Dozens of states have pushed to criminalize revenge porn. Although California outlawed it last October, the state’s revenge porn statute has not been invoked in this case.

      “The law does not apply to him because he is not accused of posting nude photos intending to cause specific subjects emotional distress and knowing that those subjects had an expectation of privacy in those photos,” Danielle Citron, University of Maryland law professor who specializes in internet privacy, told VICE News. “Instead, the case against him involves extortion at its heart. His business model was to call for others to post nude photos along with people’s home addresses and to charge for their takedown, without the public knowing he was running both sides of the business.”

      Nevertheless, Citron acknowledged that the passage of California’s law has prompted authorities to better understand these issues.

      “This does indeed show the lessons laws teach us and the importance of sustained attention to different forms of destructive online abuse, including revenge porn,” she said.

      But while California’s revenge porn law has helped raise public awareness, it has also been criticized for its narrowness. Under the law, posting revenge porn is a criminal misdemeanor only if it can be shown that the person who took the intimate image or recording intentionally inflicted emotional distress by distributing the material. The law doesn’t apply when the subject of the photos or videos is responsible for their creation, or if someone accesses the images by hacking. It also does not apply to sites or people who redistribute the images.

      Follow Jordan Larson on Twitter: @jalarsonist

      Photo via Flickr

      Topics: americas, technology, privacy, gender, revenge porn, harassment, cyber harassment, law, kevin bollaert, ugotposted.com, changemyreputation.com, san diego attorney general's office, extortion, identity theft, internet, crime & drugs

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