Revenge Porn King Hunter Moore Was Arrested, But Not for Hosting Revenge Porn

Hosting user-submitted revenge porn isn't an actual crime

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Randall Fung/Corbis

Hunter Moore, the proprietor of the now-defunct revenge porn hub Is Anyone Up, was arrested last week by FBI officials in Sacramento. For that, many people had reason to celebrate.

The 15-count indictment alleges that Moore paid an accomplice named Charles “Gary” Evens to hack into a number of private computers and steal nude photos from users, which Moore then uploaded to his website. The formal charges against Moore include one count of conspiracy, seven counts unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information and seven counts of aggravated identity theft.

There’s one notable offense, though, for which Moore hasn’t been indicted: publishing revenge porn. That’s because that isn’t a federal crime.

When I first interviewed Moore in 2012, he was confident that owning a website that published naked photos of people without their consent was an action protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Passed in 1996 just as the Internet was beginning to spread, the act states that website owners cannot be held liable for content submitted by other users.

Section 230 is an important measure that safeguards free publishing on the web. The same statute that protects a website like TIME from legal liability for its reader comments also enables Moore and other shock-website owners to go about their lousy business.

Moore was indicted not for hosting inappropriate images uploaded by others but because he allegedly broke hacking laws by paying someone to obtain those images. It’s the first act that led him to be known as the “most hated person on the Internet.”

Most states don’t actually have revenge porn laws on the books, though many are working to pass them. California, where Moore operates, recently passed an anti-revenge-porn law, but it has been criticized by victims and activists because it doesn’t apply to people who took the photos themselves (as is the case for about 80 percent of victims).

In most jurisdictions, victims of revenge porn who wish to sue must do so based on laws not explicitly related to revenge porn, including cyberstalking, copyright infringement and privacy and publicity statutes. Last year, several victims of the Texas-based revenge porn site Texxxan.com mounted a class action suit against the site and its host company, GoDaddy, for invasion of privacy and mental anguish.

This legal thicket can keep many victims from coming forward. It is tangled further by the emotional stigma attached to revenge porn and law enforcement officials who are sometimes unfamiliar with the hurtful practice.

For his alleged victims, Moore’s arrest presents no small irony. He now sits in jail for perhaps the least of his transgressions.

7 comments
BenCaesar
BenCaesar

Revenge porn is great.  It should be allowed.

Rio
Rio

The theft of photo is the real crime.  Legislatures get this wrong as it is more difficult to find the thief.  the thief then post the picture.  We need to go after the thief.  Actually it can be easy if there is an app that watermarks or other wise marks the photo with a owner's mark.  That would make it easier to trace.

HateToSayItbut
HateToSayItbut

"I'm sorry guys. I know we are best friends but honor demands that I never show you these photos I took of my girlfriend, even if she did dump me and I hate her guts now. It just wouldn't be proper."   Said no guy ever.

missvrn
missvrn

@BenCaesar  Be sure to let every girl you date in on your standpoint about "revenge porn". I'd like to see you get laid then...

LoriKayBrown
LoriKayBrown

@HateToSayItbutyou are most certainly correct in that statement. I was going to bash men for being pigs and not learning how to become gentleman, but then I thought, why should you be a gentleman, when women are the ones sending nude photos, very unladylike. I will go on to say that today's society sucks all around and everyone is to blame.