How can any of this be legal?
That's the question anyone new to the Brave New World of revenge porn will inevitably ask. The answer hinges on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which gives broad protections to websites like Is Anybody Down? and its operator, Craig Brittain.
Essentially, the law states that a website cannot be held liable for user-submitted content. This is the same law that protects, say, Craigslist when that site's classified ads are used to traffic drugs, children and prostitutes. "No provider or user of an interactive computer service," part of the law states, "shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
That said, many in the revenge-porn biz have been accused of employing methods of content procurement that would void their Section 230 protections. For instance, maybe they use phony Craigslist personal ads to solicit photos ("content") from strangers, or hack into private photo-sharing services and use those photos for the site's content.
Even a site host who takes it upon himself to hunt down and post a subject's Facebook page could run afoul of 230, and thus attract potential civil actions, such as invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or defamation.
Without addressing specifics, Brittain tells the Independent that he has stayed within the bounds of the law.
As for the people who actually submit photos: If they do not own the copyright, they are effectively violating copyright law, and could be vulnerable to civil action (or criminal action, if they obtained photos through hacking). But good luck finding them, says Jason Van Dyke, a Texas-based attorney.
Van Dyke alleges that his client's photos were stolen from her private Photobucket account and posted to revenge porn site Pink Meth. And the people behind Pink Meth, he says, "certainly aren't keeping records of who submits to their website."
So Van Dyke is just targeting Pink Meth itself. How? The attorney says the site negated its Section 230 protections, in part, by showing malice: When he first filed for a temporary injunction against Pink Meth, its operators made his client Entry of the Month.