The Legality of ‘Revenge Porn’ Websites

‘Revenge Porn’  is a genre of online pornography through which anonymous posters upload sexually explicit photos and videos of others without the consent of the person depicted. This genre can sometimes be blended with typical, often called  ‘amateur porn’ websites, but is now often found on dedicated sites of their own. This genre is most commonly associated with the now defunct site IsAnyoneUp.com , started by new media sleaze kingpin Hunter Moore.

But as always with the internet, when one site falls another rises to fill its place.

Wired UK has a piece on the owner of the website IsAnybodyDown.com (explicit, questionable legality), a site far more openly malicious than Moore’s. The owner (who doesn’t need web-celeb status via a mention) dismisses objections to his website of the revenge porn genre, calling it ‘entertainment’. That website, has a particularly harsh policy of requiring people depicted on the website to pay a $250 ‘service fee’ to have their photos removed.  This not an uncommon form of extortion found within the revenge porn genre which has led some commentators to explore the legal options for individuals depicted on such websites.

ArsTechnica has an article on the possible use of anti-extortion laws to take down websites, whilst Wired UK noted the use of copyright protections (if the person depicted had taken the photo themselves) which may provide some legal relief. Ultimately, the conclusion reached through this analysis is that existing laws fail to adequately protect victims of internet sleaze.

For my fellow Victorian Australians, it might be of some relief to note that you have an avenue for legal recourse.  Through a bit of questionable legal creativity many sites which harass individuals by uploading sexually explicit material can be taken down through the use of classification laws limiting the publishing of “objectionable material”.  This was the avenue used against the Benders Root Rate website (the name speaks for itself) and its creators who were prosecuted for publishing offensive material on an information network. The use of classification laws to prosecute these matters is of course misplaced and incredibly problematic on its own – having more than a whiff of censorship and having a wider generality then this author is comfortable with. I would love to know how the other states handle this emerging situation.

The  advantage of the Victorian laws work best because they do not require the ‘credible threat’ or mal-intention elements of harassment/extortion used in other jurisdictions.

Ultimately, some legal creativity is needed to ensure that sites like IsAnybodyDown.com are given the legal smack down they deserve, but do not rely on ‘objectionable material’ laws which are open to abuse.

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Compassion For Black Hat Hackers

Micah Scaffer has a great article over at Wired, advocating that we move beyond framing the issue (and law reform) of prosecution in the Aaron Swartz case to that of ‘good hackers’. Instead, he calls for compassion and critical thinking about the aggressive prosecutorial approach and lengthy sentences now given to all computer crimes.  He rightly notes that most hackers are young, and many do not come from the privileged backgrounds of ‘white hats’ like Swartz. His most cutting line comes in his appeal to online/offline consistency:

How do we explain to a young person who hacked their school’s website that they might be imprisoned for five years? Yet if they had physically destroyed the web server with a hammer, they would have faced no more than one year.


CF Roundup – Nano-Drones, Are Body Parts Property?, Anonymous Gets the Bankers, Cyber-9/11 and Tracking Sex Offenders

A roundup from the cyberspace:

  • Drones get even more Orwellian, with British Troops using ‘Black Hornet’  – a nano copter the size of the palm of your hand (Wired). 
  • A new article ponders where exactly body parts fall within classical property theory (EHLN, article with subscription).
  • Finally, a new study indicates that the use of geospatial technologies to track sex offenders could prove effective (ScienceDaily).

US News: UPnP Vulnerable to hackers, Anonymous attacks ‘Operation Last Resort’

Two oldish articles of note over at ZDnet:

  1. The US Department of Homeland Security has sent a serious warning in regard to networking devices such as scanners, printers, computers, and routers; which may be at risk due to vulnerabilities in the UPnP or “Universal Plug and Play” networking protocol used. The threat is considered so serious that the Department is recommending users disable UPnP, or risk possible breach by hackers.

  2. Feds struggle as Anonymous launch ‘Operation Last Resort’ campaign (video below) by attacking Federal government websites and threatening to release government information. The attack appears partly motivated by the death of Aaron Swartz and is driven by a call for law reform.

 


High Court of Ireland Rules Assisted Suicide Ban Constitutional, Human Rights Compatible

The High Court challenge in Ireland on the constitutionality and human rights compatibility of the country’s ban on assisted suicide has found in favour of the existing law, Key to the judgment (found here) was the finding that the ban did not amount to a disproportionate interference with personal autonomy. Also of interest were the comments that unlike with UK laws, the Irish Director of Prosecutions would not be able to change the law merely by changing guidelines in regard to prosecution – as this would result in the law not being enforced.


Chinese Hackers Access US Press Computer Systems

Seriously. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal  claim to have been targeted for months.


Cyber-Outlaws Bringing the LOLz

So, our favourite quasi-supervillans have certainly been keeping me amused this morning:

 

… and these were just what I stumbled upon this morning.