In the past few days I’ve received numerous “ICYMI” emails from family and friends relating to the sentencing of YouGotPosted revenge porn operator, Kevin Bollaert. No, I didn’t miss it. Some have expressed incredulity about his eighteen year sentence. They ask, isn’t eighteen years excessive for revenge porn?
To that I have two responses. First, he was not convicted under “revenge porn laws.” Rather, he was convicted for 21 counts of impersonation and 6 counts of extortion. Anybody who finds the punishment excessive has a beef with sentencing guidelines for California’s impersonation and extortion laws — not for revenge porn laws. What I want to know is whether these individuals were equally incredulous, when, say, this Detroit Mayor got a 28 year term for extortion and corruption? How about when this guy got a 20 year sentence for stealing Hurricane Katrina money? Doubt it. It’s a white collar crime that Bollaert was charged with. We can tolerate lengthy sentences when money is at stake, but raise our eyebrows when it’s about the sexual privacy of women?
Second, Bollaert is a site operator. His business was to maintain a home on the Internet for individuals to do monstrous things to innocent women. He manicured an environment where abusive people could dump naked pictures to the delight of other abusers. Bollaert demonstrated a shockingly depraved indifference to human suffering. His actions had immense online and offline harms and further taxed the penal and judicial system as terrorized women sought police intervention and restraining orders because of the stalking and harassment he facilitated. He operated and fed a machine of female destruction. He held the victims hostage online enabling the viewership to terrorize them.
The felony complaint and warrant quote desperate pleas that women would send to the email account Bollaert maintained:
“PLEASE HELP! I am scared for my life! People are calling my work place and they obtained the information from this site! I did not give permission for anyone to put up those pictures of my personal information. I have contacted the police but these pictures need to come down! Please”
“getting nonstop harassing message. ..”
“I am being harassed because my phone number and Facebook is also posted.”
“Again, I am contacting you guys. I am getting nonstop harassing messages from people who have seen me on here. I have already submitted a cyber crime report and I will have the police and a lawyer involved. I want these pictures removed now! I did not consent to these photos being posted. Why others can ruin lives like this is beyond me. But please! Remove my photos”
“As a mother and someone who’s trying to go out and look for a job. I don’t appreciate you allowing someone with no life, to go and ruin someone that’s trying to do something with their life.”
“I have gone to the police, I’ve had a restraining order put in place because of this site, my phone has been going off EVERY 2 MINUTES with strange men sending inappropriate things to me. . . I don’t know what gets you off about ruining people’s lives, but I was under aged in the photos posted of me so yes, you are showing child pornography.”
“I’ve emailed you several [times] and [given] no response. My photos are on the site and I’ve asked for them to be taken down. Cause of them I am being harassed.”
Eighteen years was an enlightened sentencing decision.
BOLLAERT BY THE NUMBERS
10,170: the number of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals who did not give their permission to be posted on YouGotPosted.
2,000: the number of emails Bollaert received in a two month time period from victims pleading for their images to be removed.
1,040: number of those 2,000 emails that contained the word “remove” in it.
$249.99-$350: amount Bollaert extorted from victims for removal of the images through his other website “changemyreputation.com”
Uploaders were required to post detailed information about the victims to enable this stalking-by-proxy. This made victim’s identity unmistakable and stalking easy. Required fields included the victims first and last name, city, state, Facebook link. Uploaders were also encouraged to provide links to other accounts used by the victims:
Already the peanut gallery of revenge porn apologists are asking about whether Bollaert will appeal. They say he could argue that he is exempt from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which protects online service providers for the content their users post. Section 230 could apply if he were being busted for the crimes of third parties, but he’s not. He is in trouble for his own actions — for requiring that users post personal identifying information without consent which he used to his benefit (i.e. attracting users which gave way to ad revenue) and for extorting money from victims for removal of the images.
The rest of the country can thank California’s AG and judiciary for taking one for the team. As for other revenge porn peddlers — your hubris is baffling. In the last few months, we’ve seen the FTC go after one operator, a federal computer fraud case against another. Before that, one was shuttered for child porn and another by the FBI in a raid of the dark net.
We coming for you.