Diane Dimond: Revenge on purveyors of revenge porn

Diane Dimond

Can I get a high-five and a hallelujah for the California judge who recently sentenced cyber-criminal Kevin Bollaert to 18 years behind bars? Finally, at least some of the smarmy creatures who psychopathically roam the dark corners of the Internet are being brought to justice.

Every indication is that laws and punishments are slowly but surely catching up with these creeps.

Bollaert, 27, is one of those repulsive human beings who made money off the pain of others by posting so-called “revenge porn”: sexually suggestive photographs previously exchanged between lovers and now used to humiliate them when the relationship soured.

From his home base in San Diego, California, Bollaert solicited jilted lovers to send in nude and embarrassing photos — mostly of young women — and then posted thousands of them online. When he was finally caught and charged with identity theft and extortion, Bollaert was asked by an investigator why he started such an awful cyber-exploitation business.

“I don’t know, dude. Like, it was just fun … “ he said.

At the now-defunct UGotPosted.com website, Bollaert uploaded more than 10,000 intimate images in just 10 months. To further shame the victims, Bollaert included their name, location, age and Facebook profile.

But according to court documents, he didn’t stop there. After women begged him via email to remove their private pictures, Bollaert steered them to his second website: ChangeMyReputation.com. There he extorted hundreds of dollars from each victim before agreeing to take down the offending photos.

Testimony from tearful victims revealed the human damage. One woman said that after reading some 400 vulgar messages on her social media sites her shaky emotional state forced her to quit college and seek help at a mental hospital. Another, quoted in the criminal complaint, said that after her family found out about her nude photos she was disowned and thrown out of the house. A third victim who got her intimate pictures removed only to see them re-posted said she nearly killed herself when police said they could do nothing to help.

Before announcing Bollaert’s sentence, Superior Court Judge David Gill made it clear that probation was “clearly off the table” and offenders like the one who stood before him deserve, “a large dose of punishment.”

I’m betting that sent a shiver up the spine of Hunter Moore, 28, who Rolling Stone magazine once called, “The most hated man on the Internet.” Moore operated a similar site — also in California — called IsAnyoneUp.com and has now pleaded guilty to federal cyber-crime charges. He admits that in addition to accepting private revenge photos, he and an accomplice hacked nude photos from other sites and re-posted them. Moore faces up to seven years in prison when he’s sentenced in June.

Yep. It seems the laws are finally catching up with the ugliest realities of the Internet.

In Texas last year, a woman won a $500,000 settlement from an ex-boyfriend who had promised he would erase provocative photos and videos she sent him over the years. Instead, after they broke up, he plastered them across the Internet and then cruelly taunted her with statistics about how many people had seen them.

In Tampa last October, a young woman who was horrified to learn that her ex had not only posted her sexually suggestive photos online but had also emailed them to her mother, won a $600,000 award against the man.

Those two men are unlikely to be able to pay the hefty awards, but pending appeals, the court judgements could dog them for the rest of their lives.

As it stands now, 17 states have passed laws regulating revenge porn in one way or another: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin (Texas is also poised to pass such a law). If you don’t see your state on the list, you might want to ask your lawmakers, “What are we waiting for?”

More and more victims have begun to fight back — with or without state laws to back up their civil court claims. So to anyone bent on some kind of Internet-based revenge, a warning. If your victim challenges you in court, you may be found liable — for the rest of your life.

Website: www.DianeDimond.com