FTC and state of Nevada crack down on revenge porn site

In a complaint filed against MyEx.com, the FTC and state of Nevada allege the website violates both federal and state law by featuring intimate images of people, along with their personal information, without their consent. MyEx, which the FTC describes as being “dedicated solely to revenge porn,” is a website that lets people upload photos and information about their ex partners.

The complaint alleges MyEx “extorted victims by requiring them to pay fees of hundreds of dollars to have their intimate pictures, videos, and information removed from the site.” In some cases, the defendants allegedly made people pay anywhere from $499 to $2,800 to remove the photos and other personal information.

A recently approved settlement with one of the defendants, Aniello “Neil” Infante, bans Infante from posting intimate photos and other personal information on a website without notice and content, requires him to destroy all the intimate images in his possession and bans him from charging people to remove the content.

As part of the settlement, Infante also agreed to a $205,000 judgment, which the FTC will suspend as long as he pays $15,000 “in light of his inability to pay more.” The money he pays will go toward reimbursing the people he allegedly charged to have their images removed from the site.

“MyEx.com uses reprehensible tactics to profit off of the intimate details of individuals’ private lives,” Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said in a press release. “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.”

The FTC’s complaint also alleges MyEx was aware that a lot of the people featured on the site did not consent to having their personal photos and details shared. As of December 2017, according to the complaint, there were 12,620 entries on the site.

Revenge porn has been illegal in Nevada since 2015. There also is a federal statute that criminalizes the use of computer services to intentionally harass or intimidate someone by engaging in conduct that “causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”

There’s a reason why legislators are tackling revenge porn. One in 25 people in the U.S. are victims of non-consensual image sharing, according to a 2016 report from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research. Of those affected by the sharing of consensual intimate images, 93 percent of people report “significant emotional distress” and 82 percent report significant difficulties in other aspects of their lives, according to the US Victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Images.

Last November, Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as well as Rep. Jackie Speier, introduced a bill to address revenge porn. The bill, Ending Nonconsenual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act of 2017, is designed to address the unwanted sharing of private, explicit images.

The bill, which has bi-partisan support, also has support from tech companies like Twitter and Facebook. In the 12 months or so, Facebook and Twitter have made some efforts to crack down on revenge porn. In April, Facebook implemented a photo-matching technology to ensure people can re-share images previously reported and tagged as revenge porn. Then, in October, Twitter updated its policy to state that no one can post or share “intimate photos or videos” of someone without their consent.