The case against Go Daddy that may help end Revenge Porn

Revenge Porn

Revenge Porn

Recently, I did an interview with Dame Magazine regarding a landmark revenge porn lawsuit against Go Daddy.  The complaint alleges that the website hosting provider was a complicit and willing partner in harassing and victimizing dozens of women online, including the young plaintiff named Holly Jacobs.

Go Daddy Revenge PornGo Daddy refused to remove nude images and personal identifying information about the women from its servers.  The images and information was posted without the victim’s consent on, a “revenge porn” website hosted by Go Daddy dedicated to humiliating and emotionally blackmailing women.  The photos that were posted to, without the victims’ permission, were generally uploaded by jaded ex-boyfriends and husbands with the sole intention of harassing, menacing and causing harm to the victim’s professional reputations. and other “revenge porn” sites would often then require a “fee”  from victims in order to remove the photos and personal information.   These sites also enjoyed a significant income stream from “click advertising”.

Sounds a lot like blackmail, exploitation and coercion, right?  Well it is.  Revenge porn is the new scourge of the internet.  Why isn’t Go Daddy required to remove these images immediately? Because of a loop hole in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996, which was written to protect interactive computer service providers, like You Tube, Yahoo and Facebook and others from the acts of 3rd party users who post content to their sites.  Unlike YouTube, Facebook and even Google, Go Daddy is generally unwilling to address activities on its servers that clearly victimize people, and violate federal and state laws.  Why doesn’t Go Daddy want to remove revenge porn and other criminal and defamatory materials from their servers?  From my perspective, its because the company doesn’t care about people.  Go Daddy is a privately corporation and part of a private equity portfolio that is only focused on maximizing profits for its shareholders, not with being responsible corporate citizens.  Much like an oil company that fouls the water and land with petroleum in an effort to make 200% more profit, Go Daddy is more interested in profiting from sites like than doing the right thing.

Holly Jacobs

Holly Jacobs, brave survivor of Revenge Porn

Revenge porn is a form of criminal stalking, which is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories.   According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).  Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.  Moreover, women are at greater risk than men for stalking victimization. In 2012, the risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000 individuals.

Cyber stalkerLet’s be clear, it is not only immoral, but illegal to post nude and intimate photos or video of individuals (generally women) without their permission, on websites and blogs dedicated to humiliating, harassing and drawing unwanted attention to the victims.  This is especially true when the images are accompanied by personal identifying information (name, address, employers, family details, etc) about the victims to ensure the target of this malicious act is clearly identified and maximum damage is done.  Victims with money and resources are forced to go to civil court and, at great expense, obtain court orders against web hosting companies like Go Daddy in order to compel them to remove the photos.  Some victims actually pay-off these sites (hosted by companies like Go Daddy)  in order to remove this images quickly and hopefully minimize the damage.  However, photos typically pop-up on other sites in the future as victims work to remove them, like a sick, online version of Whac-A-Mole.  This ongoing pattern of “pop-up revenge porn” keeps victims in a constant state of panic and uncertainty over their online reputation and personal safety.  It also becomes expensive when companies like Go Daddy unethically refuse to remove photos and defamatory materials.

Harassers use shame and fear of rejection by family and friends, and loss of job opportunities against victims.  They know that the world is full of “busy bodies” who would rather judge a victim for being shown nude on the internet, against her will, instead of focusing on the sick sociopath who posted the images. By refusing to remove illegal materials from its servers, Go Daddy has proven that it is just as complicit in stalking, harassment and defaming women, like Holly Jacobs, as any criminal off the street.  I really hope Holly wins.  She would be setting an important precedent that would benefit women and future generations to come.

The Seven types of Cyber Abuse

Cyber Abuse Carla Franklin

Cyber Abuse is a vicious crime that occurs through digital channels

The fact that “ignorance of the law is never a defense“, doesn’t stop people from continuing to engage in online behavior that is not only unethical, but also illegal. As someone who survived and fought back against cyber stalking, I’m often invited to speak to high school and college-aged students on the topic of cyber abuse. Consistently, I find that most young people and adults who attend my talks don’t understand the full emotional and legal impact of cyber abuse. Many don’t even know all the forms that cyber abuse takes and that there are some laws on the books to protect victims from each type. Now, these laws aren’t always appropriately enforced, and most are unreasonably limited given the damage that cyber abuse does, but the laws are there nonetheless and should be used.

Typically when people discuss general online digit abuse, harassment and stalking, they use the term “cyberbullying”.

Stop cyberstalking

Stop cyberstalking

This is a misnomer.  Cyber abuse the most appropriate term to describe crimes and other legal violations that are directed at individuals and committed through digital channels including cell phone services and the internet.

Cyberbullying, like Cyberharassment and Cyberstalking, is a type of cyber abuse.  Specifically, it is cyber abuse committed by young people (age 17 and under) again young people, while Cyberharassment and Cyberstalking are commited by adults.   Cyberharassment may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to harass (Wikipedia).   Repeated patterns of cyber abuse against a victim by an adult constitutes cyberstalking.

Cyber abuse can though any digital means, not just online.  Victims are damaged mentally, financially and professionally to a degree that is far more severe than similar behavior done in person, by postal mail or by phone. Why? Because online and digital communication is global and available to anyone 24 hours a day. Ignoring a perpetrator’s is not always a solutions for victims, especially in cases where this is on going intention to intimidate, alarm, humiliate and irrevocably damage the victim.  Understanding the primary types of cyber abuse, and associated legal consequences, can help empower the victim and his/her loved ones to fight back appropriately and put an end to the behavior.  Below are the seven high-level forms of cyber abuse and the legal consequences associated with them.  Over the coming months, I will be blogging about the real impact of each type of cyber abuse and how victims can empower themselves.

•Cyberbullying is digital abuse committed against young people (17 and younger), by young people
•Suspension from school and athletic teams
•Juvenile arrest
Cyberstalking/ Cyberharassment
•Cyberharassment – a form of cyberbullying committed by adults (18 and older)
•Cyberstalking – repeated acts of cyberharassment
•Civil lawsuits
•Criminal arrest for harassment, stalking, impersonation, defamation
Phone / Caller ID spoofing
•Caller ID spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to display a number on the recipient’s Caller ID display that is not that of the actual originating station
•Criminal arrest for harassment, stalking, impersonation, identity theft, fraud
•Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages and/or photographs, primarily between mobile phones.
•Copyright infringement
•Criminal arrest for distribution of pornography, child pornography, invasion of privacy
Revenge Porn
•A form of cyber-rape that involves the distribution of sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual (either real or photoshopped) on the Internet without permission.
•Civil lawsuits
•Criminal arrest for harassment, stalking, impersonation
Internet “bombing”/ bombarding
•Creation of 100s to 1000s of harassing and defamatory online postings in an effort to negatively alter a victim’s search engine results and deliberately cause mental anguish, job loss and misconceptions
•Civil lawsuits
•Criminal arrest for harassment, stalking, defamation
Digital burglary
•Illegal entry into or access of another person’s online account
•Criminal arrest for invasion of privacy, impersonation, identity theft, fraud