Revenge, Thy Name Is Porn

A new article on the style.com blog details a scary new threat to Internet privacy: Revenge Porn. The article discusses the new way that miffed lovers are turning to the Internet to extort and embarrass their exes, by using video uploading sites and social networks to post compromising photos and videos. Specifically, the stories of several relationships that went awry are highlighted, each showing a slight variation on a theme: couple gets together, tape/photos are made, relationship sours, tapes/photos resurface on the Internet somewhere.

Revenge Porn

J. W., 24, and T. K., 21, started dating in July 2007 while attending the University of Georgia. The relationship was a whirlwind: Soon after discovering each other on Facebook and hooking up, they moved in together and, according to W., bought a Great Dane and exchanged promise rings. But their union unraveled just as quickly as it had begun, and they broke up in January. Then things really went wrong.

Police say that after K. started dating another man in the spring, W. hacked into her MySpace account and, posing as her, sent bogus messages to her new boyfriend. W. also allegedly installed spyware on K.'s computer to monitor her Web use and eavesdrop on her online conversations, and stole the IDs and passwords she used to access certain websites. But the alleged act that precipitated the situation and may turn out to be W.'s undoing was his vengeful posting of nude photos of K. on his Facebook page.

W. was arrested in May, soon after the pictures appeared online, and charged with 32 misdemeanors, including 14 counts of computer theft, 14 counts of computer invasion of privacy, and an identity-fraud charge for his alleged impersonation of K. on MySpace. Currently free on $6,400 bond, W. is awaiting trial. "I don't want to go to jail just because we had a bad breakup," he told one reporter.

The interesting thing to note is how the pornographic material posting is only part of a larger group of crimes, something that we noted in all the profiles. It seems that once a vengeful person has their mind set to post some inflammatory images they are almost inevitably going to go a step further in breaching one’s Internet security. The other scary fact is located near the end of the article, namely that these types of crimes are difficult to prosecute:

Revenge porn is difficult to prosecute because there are no statutes specifically outlawing the practice. So what happens in a revenge-porn case, in effect, is that analog laws are applied to a digital offense. A prime example—in a case that has yet to be resolved—involves A. P., 17, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and his 16-year-old ex. Police say P. posted two images of her on his MySpace page, one a full-frontal nude, the other a close-up of genitalia. P.'s ex-girlfriend, identified in police reports as HLK, had e-mailed him the photos when they were dating. But after she started seeing another guy, "TF," P. turned to the Web. "Yo tell me this bitch deserves this!!!!!!!" he allegedly wrote in a caption accompanying the full-frontal photo. "TF gets my leftover's to [sic] bad she's fucked."

P. was contacted by an officer from the Janesville Police Department, who warned the teenager to take down the photos. According to police reports, P. decided to leave them on his profile. "Fuck that," he said, according to the same reports. "I am keeping them up."

Alerted to the case, MySpace deleted P.'s entire page, and on May 28, P. pleaded not guilty in La Crosse County Circuit Court to charges of child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child, and defamation. A trial date has yet to be set.

From the gist of the article and just given the general tone of the Internet these days it seems inevitable that new laws will be passed to address this disturbing new phenomenon. Until legislation catches up with real life, these events serve as a kind of warning. Michael Fertik, Reputation.com CEO, gives everyone some sound advice at the end of the article: "The best advice, of course, is to never, ever create sexual photos, videos, e-mails, text messages, or anything else that someone could keep and share in the future. You have to think of revenge porn almost like an STD: something that can only happen because of mixing sex with irresponsibility."