Feds go after operator of revenge porn site

U.S. federal regulators are clamping down on revenge porn, taking aim at a website whose operator allegedly deceived women into sending intimate photos of themselves and then charged them to have the pictures removed.

Craig Brittain operated isanybodydown.com, which displayed the images, and offered a “content removal service” that charged women between US$200 and $500 to have their images and personal information deleted from the site, according to a complaint filed against him by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Now Brittain must permanently delete all the images and personal information he received while operating the site, under a settlement with the FTC announced Thursday. It’s the FTC’s first case against a revenge porn site.

“This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.

Brittain neither admitted nor denied any of the allegations in the draft complaint.

He obtained more than a thousand images for the site, and his actions violated Section 5 of the U.S. FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce,” according to an FTC spokesman. His actions were unfair because he posted the images and other information without people’s permission and they were deceptive because he obtained the content by posing as someone else, the spokesman said.

Brittain obtained the images in a number of ways, the FTC said, such as by posing as a woman on Craigslist, and offering nude photos purportedly of himself in exchange for photos provided by women. He also required submissions to include personal information about the people in the photos, the agency said, like their full name, phone number, city of residence and Facebook profile.

Under the terms of the settlement, Brittain is also prohibited from misrepresenting how he will use any personal information he collects online. There is no financial component, but if Brittain does not honor the settlement he could face a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per day per violation.

Brittain generated about $12,000 from the site.

There is a 30-day public comment period before the settlement is finalized. The FTC spokesman declined to comment on whether revenge porn would become a growing area of regulatory action for the agency.

Brittain said last year he would be shutting down the “Is Anybody Down” site, but he had operated an additional site, obamanudes.com, that was similar. He did not respond to a request for comment sent via a Twitter account identified as his.

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