The Horrifying Rise of Revenge Porn

Cristen Conger

On Jan. 23, 2014, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Hunter Moore, known as "the most hated man on the Internet" and the "revenge porn king," for conspiracy, unauthorized access to a protected computer and aggravated identity theft. The 27-year-old Moore has attracted nefarious online notoriety for starting the revenge porn site Is Anybody Up in 2010, featuring naked photos of women, along with their names, where they live and links to their social media accounts, often submitted by their exes without prior consent. Moore had long claimed legal shelter for posting the often damaging photos and videos (action which has been described as "cyber rape") under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that absolves website owners from liability for user-submitted content.

Despite the emotional and social harm wrought on victims of revenge porn, there isn't a clear-cut legal precedent for bringing down Moore's site and other copycats. Although some states, such as California and New Jersey, have enacted legislation to penalize revenge porn proprieters like Moore, and cyberstalking laws can also apply to certain cases, initiatives to stop revenge porn must navigate an unfortunately thorny intersection of women's safety, digital freedom of speech and local law enforcement unfamiliar with real-world threats of cyberstalking and online harassment.

Although revenge porn is an uncomfortable (to put it lightly) subject to delve into, the more I learn about, the more I think it should be required reading, especially for younger women who typically are its targets.

*Trigger warning: some of these articles contain profanity and sexually explicit language

"A Brief History of Revenge Porn" by Alexa Tsoulis-Reay, New York

2000: Italian researcher Sergio Messina identifies an emergent genre he calls "realcore pornography"-photos and videos of ex-girlfriends initially shared in Usenet groups.

"The Battle Over Revenge Porn: Can Hunter Moore, the Web's Vilest Entrepreneur, Be Stopped?" by Jessica Roy, BetaBeat:

One of the fundamental truths of the Internet is that once an image is uploaded, it's almost impossible to permanently scrape it from the web. When Sarah Googled her name, the first 10 pages of results were all links to her naked photos. She tried for months afterward to expunge her photos from the hundreds of revenge porn, regular porn and torrent sites that had picked them up. The police were of no help: they told her that because she was over 18 when the photos were taken, what her ex was doing was technically legal. Furthermore, because they were in his possession, they told her the photos were technically his property.

"Israel Outlaws Revenge Porn" by Sheera Frenkel, Buzzfeed

The law was approved in a third, and final, vote in Israel's parliament on Monday evening unanimously by the 31 lawmakers present. It punishes anyone who creates a sexual film or photographs without the subject's consent or awareness and posts it online without that person's explicit consent. Those who break it become registered sex offenders, and could serve up to five years in prison.

"Victims of 'Revenge Porn' Open Up On Reddit About How It Impacted Their Lives" by Nina Bahadur, Huffington Post Women

This week, Redditor TastyJams asked users: "Those who have naked pictures on the Internet; how did they get there and how has it affected your life?"Several of the men and women who commented had willingly shared intimate photographs online and reported few or no repercussions or regrets. However, respondents whose images were posted by ex-partners -- or so-called friends -- were much more likely to report long-term effects like sexual shame, disruption to their education or employment, and trust issues.