A website owner who encouraged users to post sexually explicit images of other people without their permission has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Kevin Bollaert, 28, allowed 10,170 photos (mostly of women) to be posted to his now-defunct revenge porn website, UGotPosted.com. He had users include identifying information with the photos, such as names, addresses and links to Facebook profiles. He then emailed the victims, telling them their photos could be removed for up to $350 through his second site, ChangeMyReputation.com. At his trial in February in California Superior Court in San Diego, 21 victims testified to the damage Bollaert’s site had caused. He was then charged with 21 counts of identity theft and six counts of extortion.

“Sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, will not shield predators from the law or jail,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement.

Since Bollaert’s site was shut down in December 2013, the fight against revenge porn has made significant strides, legally and socially. To start, it’s not as easy to get private photos off the Internet as you might expect. Website owners are not legally responsible for content posted on their sites by users because of a law called the Communications Decency Act.

But that’s changing.

Bollaert was operating from California, one of 17 states that now has a law aimed at punishing so-called revenge porn — when a former romantic interest publicly posts privately shared images as an act of vengeance — as well as explicit images obtained in other ways from being posted without a subject’s consent.

Bollaert was arrested two months after the law went into effect, although he was eventually charged with identity theft and extortion. California’s law, like other anti-revenge porn laws working their way through state legislatures, makes it a criminal act to distribute sexually explicit images without permission to cause emotional distress, even if the subject of the picture agreed to be photographed.

A similar fate met Hunter Moore, who was arrested by the FBI this year for his infamous site IsAnyoneUp.com. He pleaded guilty and faces up to seven years in prison and fines of half a million dollars.

Prominent anti-revenge porn activist Charlotte Laws has been gathering women whose photos were posted on Moore’s site to speak at his sentencing, in hopes that he will receive the full sentence. In an interview on Sunday, she said the punishment Bollaert now faces (a minimum of 10 years before he is eligible for parole) is more appropriate for the severity of the crime.

“This serves as a deterrent to other people thinking of operating revenge porn websites,” Laws said. “It sends the message that there are consequences when you exploit victims and engage in illegal activity of this sort.”

On the federal level, the battle against revenge porn has found a place in the world of copyright and business practices. First, if the explicit photo was taken by its subject — a “selfie” — the photographer owns the rights to that photo, and its existence on the Internet without permission is a violation of copyright.

Court documents showed one woman wrote Bollaert to say the photos of her on his site were taken when she was a minor and, therefore, constituted child pornography. “I have gone to the police, I’ve had a restraining order put in place because of this site,” she wrote. “My phone has been going off EVERY 2 MINUTES with strange men sending inappropriate things to me.”

This is where the federal government seems to be stepping in. Revenge porn websites are technically businesses, which means they fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC can then punish them for “unfair business practices.” In January, authorities used this tactic to take down another revenge porn kingpin, Craig Brittain.

Meanwhile, websites that exist for other purposes are taking a stand against nude or sexually explicit photos posted without the subject’s consent, although they are not legally required to do so. Twitter and Reddit now have policies to ban and remove such photos. Facebook has also clarified its “community standards” (which already banned most nudity), saying it will remove “images shared in revenge or without permissions from the people in the images.”

Despite the new policies, the damage has already been done, as far as the people in these cases are concerned. As one of the victims said at Bollaert’s trial, “You should have seen me. I was a wreck. I was bawling my eyes out. That’s me, that’s my personal nakedness, and everyone can see it now.”


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