Morgan takes on 'revenge porn' websites

A recent lawsuit filed by Beaumont attorney John Morgan is bringing national attention to the problem of “revenge porn” websites.



The sites allow former partners to post nude or uncompromising photos of ex-girlfriends or ex-wives -- without the women’s knowledge -- as an act of retaliation over the breakup. Some even contain the name and address of the woman.


On Jan. 18, Morgan filed a class action suit on behalf of lead plaintiff Hollie Toups and at least 16 other women against the site Texxxan.com and its web host GoDaddy in Orange County District Court. The suit also targets those who have uploaded the images to the site as well as its subscribers.


"I'm going after the revenge porn industry," Morgan told the Houston Chronicle. "Those sickos who post private information of women without their knowledge."


The women are seeking monetary damages for invasion of privacy and mental anguish and want the sites shut down.


Morgan said Toups, a Beaumont resident, first came forward after she found a picture of herself on the site. Since then other women whose pictures were posted without permission joined her and said about half the women do not know who posted the pictures and the other half suspect their former partners.


However, Forbes columnist Eric Goldman says he doesn’t expect the suit to get very far as a class action.


“All of the defendants–other than the users actually submitting the revenge porn–are protected by 47 USC 230, the law that says websites aren’t liable for third party content,” he wrote. “Section 230 also explicitly protects website users, so the claims against the website subscribers are specious.”


He suggests that the plaintiffs’ best legal chance is to bring individual lawsuits.


According to Forbes Magazine, the "revenge porn" industry gained popularity  in 2010 with the launch of the forum Is Anyone Up?. Ex-boyfriends and spurned lovers were encouraged to post explicit photos of women as well as stories and personal information. The site was investigated by the FBI after it was discovered that many photos featured underage girls. The company was eventually sold and shut down by the new owner.

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