The Federal Trade Commission moves to shut down revenge porn website

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The Federal Trade Commission made a move to shut down a prominent revenge porn website on Tuesday, marking a step forward for activists and victims of cyber exploitation.

The agency filed a complaint against MyEx.com and its operators alleging two counts of FTC act violations and one violation of Nevada statutes. The website, the FTC said in a statement, is “dedicated solely to revenge porn,” urging visitors to “submit pics and stories of your ex.”

The site solicits intimate images and videos of victims, posting them along with personal information including name, address, employer, and social media accounts. In numerous instances, the defendants allegedly charged victims fees from $499 to $2,800 to remove their images and information from the site, the FTC said.

The complaint names EMP Media, Inc., and other parties conducting business on the site. As of December 2017, there were approximately 12,620 entries on the site, according to the complaint. (The site did not respond to request for comment.)

New York based attorney Carrie Goldberg said since she started her law firm in 2014 to litigate on behalf of victims of online harassment, said this particular site is one of the most prolific publishers of non-consensual porn. Her first two cases involved women who were posted on the site and since then she has handled 15 cases across the U.S. where people’s bodies were exposed on this site.

“For years we’ve been plotting its destruction,” she said. Goldberg said she had lobbied the FTC to take action “by providing a declaration to the FTC describing some of our clients’ experiences.”

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“People who were featured on this site suffered real harm, including the loss of money they paid to remove intimate images and personal information, loss of jobs, and being subject to threats and harassment,” said acting FTC chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen.

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Some 38 states and Washington, D.C. have laws addressing revenge porn. However, there is no federal law prohibiting the non-consensual distribution of these images, so the Federal Trade Commission is one of the highest agencies addressing it, said Bennet Kelley, founder of the Internet Law Center.

“This is an agency created before TV and internet but because of this broad statute they are the de facto consumer protection bureau of the U.S., especially with respect to internet issues,” Kelley said. “This sends a message that [revenge porn] is a major issue.”

This is the second time the FTC has lodged a complaint against a revenge porn purveyor. In 2015, it banned a website operator from the revenge porn business after he allegedly used deception to acquire and post intimate images of women, later charging them to remove the photos. The operator of that site avoided penalties and charges by agreeing to take down all content from the site and never post again.

In this latest case announced Tuesday, the FTC is requesting the court award an injunction to shut down the site and “restitution” for victims, in the form of refunds for money paid to have photos of themselves removed.

One person named in the case has already settled with the FTC for a $205,000 judgment in addition to consenting to destroying all intimate images on the site and swearing not to post them in the future.



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