Dating Site Hackers Reveal Private Data

This week, the group which hacked the extramarital affair dating site AshleyMadison.com  publicly released at least two sets of data, ranging from customer profiles to internal company e-mails. However, many of the user profiles are fake, either created by the company itself to entice visitors or made by users who signed up for unverified free accounts. Bizarrely, thousands of apparently real accounts were created using US government work e-mail addresses.

XBIZ reports here and here:

For the broader online adult entertainment industry, the Ashley Madison hack and subsequent release of user data does not bode well for future membership sales — as consumer fears over being victimized by these high-profile disclosures instills one more hurdle in the sales funnel for marketers to overcome.

According to Reuters, “Prominent divorce lawyer Raoul Felder said the release is the best thing to happen to his profession since the seventh Commandment forbade adultery in the Bible.

Nick Mokey of Digital Trends notes that prominent anti-sex activist Josh Duggar had a paid account at Ashley Madison but cautions:

But releasing the information of 37 million people who thought they were conducting business in private online sets a horrendous precedent. Today, it’s a dating website for cheaters and we all laugh. Tomorrow, maybe it’s the names of anyone who has ever had an abortion in the United States.

Defense lawyer Scott Greenfield reports that “revenge porn” activists have already jumped on the Ashley Madison bandwagon, even though website hacking is not the same thing as sharing unauthorized private photos.

Lastly, ArenaFlowers.com has entertainingly leveraged the situation to its own marketing advantage:

Arena Flowers ad

Arena Flowers ad

Is Twitter Beginning an Anti-Adult Crackdown?

In recent months, Twitter has increasingly become embroiled in claims and counterclaims of harassment and censorship, especially pertaining to the video game industry and the so-called “GamerGate” movement. Attorney Scott Greenfield reports that Twitter is succumbing to pressures from the anti-sex crowd by tightening its policies regarding not only purported harassment but also “unauthorized” nudity. He cautions that:

How will Twitter know what’s what?  Will there be roving bands of prune-faced school marms dispensing their own brand of vengeance against twits that offend their politics and sensibilities?  Silly as this seems, that’s likely to be the case.

In addition to these changes, Xbiz reports that Twitter also appears to be restricting search results for adult-related terms, possibly in anticipation of closer ties with the notoriously anti-adult Google. Some in the adult industry are calling this the #Pornocalypse:


Twitter Reportedly Clamping Down on Porn Search Results

Twitter’s latest tweaks are causing concern among adult marketers, as the social media giant appears to be restricting porn- and sex-related results from its “Top Tweets” listings. Read More>>

Three Nations, Three Laws

This week has brought several developments on the legal front.

First, a federal judge has put on hold one of the first US “revenge porn” statutes for being grossly overbroad, as predicted by famed industry lawyer Lawrence Walters. The law would have prohibited almost all nude images from being posted online, regardless of consent or intent.

Second, because of a quirk in Spanish law, theater tickets in that country are taxed at a higher rate than adult publications. An enterprising company is using this to its advantage by selling porn with “free” theater tickets included, which ends up costing customers less than the standalone theater tickets.

Finally,  as Stephen Yagielowicz of Xbiz reports, a new set of legal restrictions for adult content goes into effect in the UK on December 1:

The broad strokes are simple: the U.K. is now a laboratory for a bold experiment in ISP content filtering, mandatory online age verification, and the licensing of sites based upon their content.

Questions Remain as U.K. Porn Law Takes Effect

With new adult website regulations hitting the U.K. on Monday, Dec. 1, many porn producers, marketers and distributors are questioning how (or even if) these measures will affect them — and receiving conflicting answers. Read More>>

UK Jumps on Revenge Porn Bandwagon

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to jump on the current “revenge porn” bandwagon, pro-censorship UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has announced new prosecutorial guidelines to charge perpetrators of non-consensual sharing of intimate images, including prison terms of up to 14 years if the victim was a minor.

As I have said previously, I sympathize with people who have been victimized by unauthorized invasions of their privacy, but I am concerned about the broad and vague wording of most proposed US revenge porn laws. To the credit of the British, their guidelines rely on existing laws rather than the proposal of new laws which could impair protected speech.

Per Xbiz.com:


‘Revenge Porn’ Crimes Could Lead to 14-Year Sentences in the U.K.

The U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service said this week that it has updated its legal guidance for “revenge porn” prosecutions. Read More>>

Stopping Internet Monopolies, and Revisiting Revenge Porn

Some political developments recently in the news might be of interest to my readers.

First, according to DSL Reports, the US Federal Communications Commission has extended the time allowed for the public to comment about ISP and cable giant Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Many consumer advocates are concerned that the merger would grant Comcast even more monopolistic control than it already has over consumer access to the Internet.

Second, “revenge porn” activist Danielle Citron has proposed a new model criminal law, this time including a public interest exception that would protect journalistic uses as well as a clearer exception for commercial and public photography. However, First Amendment law expert Scott Greenfield points out a number of flaws within the model statute. As currently written, for example, it would outlaw nude drawings or paintings of non-consenting persons. Further, as lawyer Mark Bennett explains, in order to criminalize “revenge porn” the US Supreme Court would have to recognize a new category of unprotected speech, something which the current Court seems loath to do at this time.

Some Thoughts About Online Privacy

Privacy

Privacy. Credit: Eiren @ Flickr, CC 2.0 BY-SA

In the aftermath of the recent hacking incident involving Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities, this is a good opportunity to share some links about privacy, online storage, and the question of non-consensual porn.

First, an excellent overview by Forbes privacy columnist Kashmir Hill about why we should not blame the victims of hacking: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/09/01/sext-abstinence-education-doesnt-work/

“Humans are going to do sex stuff. And in this era, that means digital sex stuff,” tweeted jokester-turned-lead-leak-investigator InfoSec Taylor Swift. “‘Don’t do it’ is not a solution.”

Two articles from AP:

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20140903/us-celeb-hacking-7d6c6f1f4e.html

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20140903/us–celeb_hacking-privacy-25208d1a8e.html

Finally, another take from Kashmir Hill, noting that public opinion is now more sympathetic to victims of sexy-image hacking than in the past, but also citing an “academic” spokeswoman for the “revenge porn” anti-Section 230 movement:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/09/03/were-less-nasty-about-stolen-celeb-naked-photos/

Jennifer Lawrence Photo Hack Highlights Revenge Porn Debate

The recent hacking incident involving unauthorized disclosure of private photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities comes amidst an emotionally charged debate over how to deal legislatively with so-called “revenge porn.” Right before this incident, defense lawyer Scott Greenfield had blogged about a law student’s proposal to require a new, DMCA-like takedown scheme for websites to deal with user-posted content that was claimed to be revenge porn. Although it would avoid third-party criminal liability, the particular proposal would significantly burden small websites which lack the funds for paid moderators and legal staff. However, if it exempted non-commercial sites, I feel that the idea could at least represent a starting point for a conversation about whether new legal remedies are needed.

Nonetheless, I share Greenfield’s caution about modifying Section 230:

Not that an exception to Article 230 of the CDA is anything to be taken lightly. It could well be a slippery slope, particularly with initiatives that seek to silence “hurtful speech,” perhaps the most insidiously destructive idea put forth by the fragile teacups of the web. But with the caveat that such an exception be subject to strict constitutional scrutiny, it offers a far better solution than creating crimes.

Or does this open the door to a takedown regime for every new butthurt that the internets create?

An opposing view at Vox repeats a number of unproven feminist tropes as fact and dismisses the “public interest” exception as merely an obstacle proposed by free-speech supporters, although the interview does address some of the practical difficulties in relying solely on current copyright and civil law to deal with genuine invasions of privacy:

http://www.vox.com/2014/6/25/5841510/its-nearly-impossible-to-get-revenge-porn-off-the-internet

Adult Content Squeezed from Both Sides in US

Two stories from Xbiz this week illustrate creeping corporate and state censorship in the USA. (Click each photo for link to story.)

First, here is more on the Big G’s slow march toward banning adult content from its services completely. (Based on the past few years, though, I disagree with the author’s contention that Google has supported “free speech” any time recently):


Porn Under Attack: Google Tightens Content Restrictions

According to Morality In Media’s latest victory announcement, adult marketers may be facing further restrictions on advertising via search giant Google’s AdWords and Image Search programs.

Next, Hawaii joins the parade of states trying to do an end run around Reno vs. ACLU by outlawing vaguely defined “revenge porn”:


Hawaii Makes Revenge Porn a Felony

Hawaii has become the 10th state in the nation to pass a law against revenge porn.

I will be watching these developments closely.

Two Sides of the Border: Canada Upholds Online Privacy While NY Moves to Restrict Speech

Today, two stories show contrasting developments in Internet freedom in Canada and the USA.

First, the CBC reports that the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously that computer users have a right to privacy and anonymity, and that authorities cannot obtain subscriber information without a valid warrant. This ruling provides far more protection than the outdated US “Electronic Communications Privacy Act,” which is in desperate need of an upgrade to reflect current technological developments.

South of the border, however, the New York State Senate joined a number of US states in passing an extremely broad “revenge porn” bill. At the above link, attorney Scott Greenfield explains that the NY bill in its current form could, among other things, outlaw legitimate news reporting because it fails to provide a “public interest” exception. For example, the bill as it now stands would have made it illegal to release the indecent “selfies” posted by former congressman Anthony Weiner, despite the fact that the public has a legitimate interest in knowing about potential misconduct by an elected official.

New Bad Proposals on Both Sides of the Pond

This week, Xbiz reports that UK authorities want to make it more difficult for consumers to obtain adult material online by requiring intrusive age verification to access streaming adult videos. The proposal is bolstered by questionable statistics about Internet use which were derived using a television rating model, with the claim that we must restrict everyone’s Internet use in order to — you guessed it — “protect the children.”

On the other side of the pond, a US congresswoman has proposed a new law to criminalize so-called “revenge porn” at the national level. Although non-consensual sharing of intimate images is wrong, many “revenge porn” bills go much farther by requiring affirmative consent, even written consent, to post a wide range of material that includes innocuous images, under the threat of years in prison. This new standard of what I call “hyper-consent” would, in some of these bills, extend to material currently exempt from model release requirements or 18 USC 2257 recordkeeping. Because of the vague definitions and extraordinarily high penalties involved, I believe there would be a real danger of chilling protected speech if any of these broadly drafted criminal “revenge porn” laws take effect in the US.