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HOW TO GET THE FBI TO CARE …

Revenge Porn

HOW TO GET THE FBI TO CARE ABOUT REVENGE PORN: BE A BILLIONAIRE

April 24, 2014

Somebody’s mom solved the riddle about getting law enforcers to care about revenge porn.  That somebody happens to be the wife of a billionaire venture capitalist tech titan.  But the facts of the case could help many other potential revenge porn victims.

According to the FBI’s affidavit,  after Douglas Tarlow, a now 27-year-old Stanford graduate, and his girlfriend ended a three year relationship in 2010, things were hospitable and she even recommended him for a job at her mom’s nonprofit.  In February 2012 he was fired for cause from said nonprofit seven months into his alleged 24 month contract.  So what would any disgruntled former employee do?  Probably not threaten other employees with guns which is exactly what Tarlow did.  Tarlow’s lunacy escalated as he became hell-bent on recovering $73k in unpaid wages for the duration of his contract.  Rejecting an offer by the victim’s mother (Tarlow’s former employer and wife of tech titan) to handle the labor dispute through arbitration, he instead accessed his archives of nude photos and videos that her daughter had voluntarily shared with him during their relationship, threatening to publish them on Reddit to transform the daughter into “the next Paris Hilton.”   From texts and GuerillaMail sent from CA and OH, Tarlow harassed mother and daughter (both living in CA) threatening to distribute the images if mom’s nonprofit didn’t pay up.

The FBI subpoenaed Tarlow’s internet provider and cell provider, Time Warner Cable; and obtained confirmation that the anonymous GuerillaMail emails were sent from his IP address.

The FBI is charging Tarlow with extortion under Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(d), “Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

Tarlow was arrested last week, released, and today is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in US District Court.

Setting aside other motivation$ that the FBI may have for taking this specific case, it’s interesting that we’re dealing with the THREAT of nonconsensual distribution — and not the completed act.  Extortion is a crime even if the underlying act (in this case, the distribution of sexual images without the subject’s consent) may not be treated as one.  Tarlow’s not frivolous claim to these funds is significant.  While presumably his demands for this money and failure to lay claim to it using a reasonable method (i.e. arbitration or court) satisfies the extortion claim, the language in the affidavit considers reputation as something of value and recognizes revenge porn as devaluing one’s reputation which suggests that even if money were not sought, the prima facie elements are met.

“[T]here is probable cause to believe that Douglas TARLOW sent threats via interstate commerce to [daughter] and her family that he would publish the photographs thereby damaging the reputation of [daughter] and her family, with the intent to extort money from [daughter] and her family, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 875(d).”

While it’s tremendous that the FBI is taking this seriously, I’ve had many victims report similar issues to the FBI, only to be informed that “this is not the kind of thing the FBI will investigate but you’re welcome to fill out a form anyway.”

We now know that the FBI is regarding email and text communications sent between states as interstate commerce.  And based on the statute and the content of the FBI affidavit, the threat of loss of reputation is adequate currency (i.e. “a thing of value”) to make a Section 875(d) claim.

One in ten exes threaten to distribute sexual photos of their ex online.  And sixty percent of those people make good on their threat.

I encourage anybody who is being threatened with the revenge porn to print Special Agent Glenn F. Solomon-Hill’s affidavit out and complain to the FBI.