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Accused revenge porn site owner arrested and charged with 31 felony counts

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Image Credit: val lawless/Shutterstock

The alleged owner and operator of a revenge porn website was arrested in California yesterday and is charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and extortion.

27-year old Kevin Bollaert is currently being held in a San Diego County jail, following a six-month investigation by the California Attorney General’s eCrime unit into revenge porn websites. Bollaert is the suspected ringleader of revenge porn sites ugotposted.com and changemyreputation.com.

He is believed to be responsible for posting more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos and charging victims up to $350 to take them down.

“This website published intimate photos of unsuspecting victims and turned their public humiliation and betrayal into a commodity with the potential to devastate lives,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “Online predators that profit from the extortion of private photos will be investigated and prosecuted for this reprehensible and illegal internet activity.”

Revenge porn refers to the act of ex-lovers uploading illicit photos to the Internet, often accompanied by personally identifiable information, and done without the subject’s consent.


Related: Accusations of child porn and extortion fail to stop revenge porn site operator


Court documents allege that Bollaert created ugotposted.com in 2012. Unlike some other revenge porn sites, this one requires the poster to provide complete identifying information about the victim, including their name, location, age, and Facebook profile link. When individuals requested their photos be taken down, Bollaert would reply with a changemyreputation.com email address and offer to remove the content for a $300+ fee, which could be submitted via PayPal.

A statement from the attorney general’s office said records from Bollaert’s PayPal account indicate that he received payments totaling more than $10,000.

The felony complaint also contains email text from “Jane Doe #6” who said “… scared for my life! People are calling my work place and they obtained the information from this site! I did not give permission for anyone to put up those pictures or my personal information. I have contacted the police but these pictures need to come down! Please!”

This Jane Doe is one of thousands. The state’s attorneys office accused Bollaert of receiving and reviewing 2,000 emails from individuals, requesting their information and images be removed from the site, between June 20, 2103 and August 26 2013.

Revenge porn is a pervasive and alarming problem but has existed in a legal gray area. These sites are difficult to take down and prosecute, as there is also no comprehensive federal invasion of privacy law. Posting revenge porn photos is not technically illegal because the photos may be considered the photographer’s intellectual property (unless they are selfies), and many were initially taken with the victim’s consent.

Operators of these sites have claimed they are not responsible for user-submitted content due to the Communications Decency Act, which prevents sites from being held liable for user-posted content.

However, the practice is spreading beyond isolated actions by angry former boyfriends and girlfriends, and experts fear it will spiral into a full-fledged industry. Creators of these sites (like Bollaert is suspected to be) are now using dirty tactics to procure illicit images in bulk and are demanding cash in exchange for taking the photos down.

This has caused victims, activists, attorneys, politicians, and law enforcement officials to mobilize, in an effort to shut these sites down and prosecute their operators. In October, California enacted a law that made posting explicit images of someone without permission punishable with six months in prison.

The charges against Bollaert are major steps in the fight against revenge porn. Criminal prosecution of site owners and operators will hopefully deter others and put this dark corner of the Internet to rest. Maryland, Wisconsin, and New York are considering similar measures, but civil liberties groups including the ACLU and EFF worry that it violates First Amendment rights. 

Bollaert is currently being held in jail on $50,000 bail.


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