By Doug Porter
This column has been updated to include a item about charges being dismissed against two of the persons named in the account below.
Yesterday’s announcement by California State Attorney General Kamala Harris about one of the operators of now-defunct revenge porn site YouGotPosted being arrested garnered coverage in nearly all the local media. There’s more to the story than meets the eye.
San Diegan Kevin Bollaert surrendered to authorities and was charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. He made $50,000 bail and walked on Tuesday evening, telling a TV 8 News Reporter “I don’t feel like I committed any crime.”
The sad part of this story is that Bollaert may be right, technically speaking. His web site allowed anonymous individuals to upload explicit images along with personal information of the subject.
California’s revenge porn law only applies when the person accused of spreading the images online is also the photographer.
According to Adam Steinbaugh’s Blog About Law and Technology, “the Communications Decency Act bars certain state-level criminal charges against the operators of a website, assuming the identity theft charges treat Bollaert as the speaker (as opposed to the persons who provided the nude photos to him). Whether the extortion charges are barred by the CDA is a more complicated question.”
According the office of the attorney general in California: California Penal Code sections 530.5 and 653m (b) make it illegal to willfully obtain someone’s personal identifying information, including name, age and address, for any unlawful purpose, including with the intent to annoy or harass.
Again the problem here is that the state will have to convince a jury that “publishing” and “obtaining” are the same thing. YouGotPosted simply allowed others to publish the information. And when you start to talk about restraints on publishing, you wander into Freedom of the Press issues. This case is by no means a slam dunk.
Although the press release from AG Kamala Harris’ office says the YouGotPosted web site was created in December 2012, its history goes back beyond that date.
A motion filed in Nevada United States District Court seeking a temporary restraining order on November 2012, suggests the site may have been operational in April 2012. Bollaert and others named in the motion failed to appear at the TRO hearing and ignored the underlying lawsuit.
They were held in contempt of court by Judge Gloria Navarro in April 2013. Others named in the lawsuit, filed in September 2012, included Eric S. Chanson, Roy E.Chanson, Amy L. Chanson, and Blue Mist Media LLC. Chanson submitted a letter to a Judge Frost in a federal court case, saying that Roy and Amy Chanson (who are his parents) were not associated with the site and that he sold the his share of the business to Bollaert in March, 2013.
UPDATE: The case against defendants Amy Chanson and Roy Chanson was dismissed with prejudice (meaning it can’t be retried) “…pursuant to the terms of a Confidential Settlement Agreement entered into by and between the Parties.”
Nevada Attorney Marc Randazza was actively seeking to take down Bollaert’s business months before California got involved. Here’s an excerpt from his The Legal Satyricon blog from the beginning of his quest wherein he explains another site’s operation:
Here’s their business plan:
Step one: Register the domain name “isanybodydown.com”
Step two: Get ahold of nude photos of people who never consented to having their photos published.
Step three: Publish them, along with their names, home towns, and links to their facebook profiles.
So now how do you “profit?”
Well, openly saying “I’ll take down the photo for $250,” would probably create some legal issues for you. So, instead, you create a fake lawyer persona and say “I am an internet lawyer, named David Blade, III, and I’ll get your pics down for $250.”
What Bollaert and company did was to enable others to post pictures often stolen off cell phones and emails. They thought this method would make it all legal. And rather than invent a lawyer they set up a companion website ChangeMyReputation which would “fix” things for a fee.
After PayPal disabled his account he began demanding payment in Amazon gift cards. This guy and his fellow cockroaches personify evil as far as I’m concerned.
San Diego’s 9/11 Terrorism Connection…
Reporter Jamie Reno has a story posted in The International Business Times about a move in Congress to get 28 pages declassified from the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (JICI) of 9/11 issued in late 2002 apparently containing new information about Saudi Arabia’s involvement and activities prior to the attack taking place in San Diego.
Earlier this year, Reps. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., were given access to the redacted pages and have introduced a resolution that urges President Obama to declassify the 28 pages, which were originally classified by President George W. Bush on grounds of national security.
From the IB Times story:
“I was absolutely shocked by what I read,” Jones told International Business Times. “What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me. I cannot go into it any more than that. I had to sign an oath that what I read had to remain confidential. But the information I read disappointed me greatly.”
Back in 2003 Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Sam Brownback asked President Bush to reconsider his decision not to release the material and were turned down.
Former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who chaired the Joint Inquiry in 2002 and has been beating the drum for more disclosure about 9/11 since then, has never understood why the 28 pages were redacted. Graham told IBTimes that based on his involvement in the investigation and on the now-classified information in the document that his committee produced, he is convinced that “the Saudi government without question was supporting the hijackers who lived in San Diego…. You can’t have 19 people living in the United States for, in some cases, almost two years, taking flight lessons and other preparations, without someone paying for it. But I think it goes much broader than that. The agencies from CIA and FBI have suppressed that information so American people don’t have the facts.”
Jones insists that releasing the 28 secret pages would not violate national security.
“It does not deal with national security per se; it is more about relationships,” he said. “The information is critical to our foreign policy moving forward and should thus be available to the American people. If the 9/11 hijackers had outside help – particularly from one or more foreign governments – the press and the public have a right to know what our government has or has not done to bring justice to the perpetrators.”
Earlier leaks reported in the news media involve allegations of links between the Saudi government, the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi men who lived in San Diego: Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. Neither of these guys are around to talk to any more. Reno’s account also cites “sources and numerous press reports also suggest that the 28 pages include more information about Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI asset in San Diego who Newsweek reported was friends with al-Bayoumi and invited two of the San Diego-based hijackers to live in his house.”
The government of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any connection with the 9/11 hijackers.
Not A Shocker: City IT Services Not So Good
Matt Potter reports on a recent statement by city auditor Eduardo Luna, entitled “Performance Audit of IT Web Services” at the Reader, and the news isn’t good. For starters, Luna says:
Online services are difficult to locate and the online services list is incomplete.
As of September 2013, the City website offered 52 online services, but less than half of them are accessible from the homepage drop-down list labeled Access Online Services.
To find some of the online services, a user would have to know which department offers the service, navigate to the department’s webpage, and then locate the link to the service.
Back to Potter’s reporting:
A December 6 response to the audit from the city’s Stacey LoMedico, assistant chief operating officer, and Jeff Leveroni, director of information technology, agrees with many of the findings, and then proposes a familiar city hall solution to resolve the problem: dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to pay for a new hired hand.
Maybe they can also do something about that overwhelming need to put documents into a not user friendly pdf file format…
Desde La Logan Passes a Fact Check on Barrio Logan Asthma
SDFP columnist Brent Beltrán got called out yesterday by Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt:
Statement: “Barrio Logan has one of the highest rates of asthma not only in San Diego but all of California, ” activist and San Diego Free Press contributor Brent E. Beltrán wrote in a Dec. 8 column.
Here’s the explanation behind her “Mostly True” determination:
The state’s data is all that’s available to assess Beltrán’s claim, and it shows more Barrio Logan residents reported to an emergency room with asthma-related symptoms than residents of most other neighborhoods in the state.
More comprehensive data that breaks down actual incidences of asthma would be ideal but Beltrán’s claim appears accurate based on available state data.
We dub a claim “mostly true” when a statement is accurate but there is an important nuance to consider. In this case, the crucial distinction is that the state doesn’t specifically track incidences of asthma. Barrio Logan has among the highest rates of asthma-related ER visits in the region and the state, and it’s fair to assume that translates to overall asthma rates.
Egg, Meet Face Over at Google
The continuing revelations based on documents obtained by Edward Snowden have been fodder for lots of defensive posturing by tech giants like Google. Consider this very recent USA Today op-ed by Marvin Ammori of the New America Foundation (Chaired by Google’s Eric Schmidt) poo-pooing concerns about the National Security Agency:
There are two problems with conflating the NSA’s surveillance with Facebook and Google’s advertising strategy: First, it signals a complete ignorance of technology and of how people use the Internet today. Second, it reflects political incompetence. By pursuing this strategy of conflation, advocates are undermining their credibility and imperiling their own larger efforts to advance privacy.
Translation: Privacy activists don’t know what they are talking about and are paranoid. Then comes the Washington Post yesterday with revelations about the NSA ability to utilize Google cookies to target individuals:
The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using “cookies” and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.
The agency’s internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.
Google declined to comment for this article, but chief executive Larry Page joined the leaders of other technology companies earlier this week in calling for an end to bulk collection of user data and for new limits on court-approved surveillance requests. “The security of users’ data is critical, which is why we’ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information,” Page said in a statement on the coalition’s Web site. “This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world.”
Salon.com reports that singer Joan Jett has joined the chorus of entertainers wishing to disassociate themselves from SeaWorld:
SeaWorld’s lacking in celebrity love these days: Willie Nelson, Heart and Barenaked Ladies all canceled performances at the Orlando water park in the wake of the controversial documentary“Blackfish,” which exposed its alleged inhumane treatment of whales. Now Joan Jett, who already gained attention for her animal rights crusade when she was booted from a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float, is demanding that SeaWorld stop using recordings of her music in its “Shamu Rocks” show. (After a similar request from Tommy Lee last year, the show is also prohibited from using Mötley Crüe songs.)
On This Day: 1928 – In Buenos Aires, police thwarted an attempt on the life of President-elect Herbert Hoover.1964 – Sam Cooke was shot to death at a the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, CA. 1981 – Muhammad Ali fought his last fight. He lost his 61st fight to Trevor Berbick. Did you enjoy this article?
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“Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it RIGHT.”
Great job of research for this bit about Bollaert. Thanks for shining some light on this cockraoch.
I’m no lawyer but I agree that setting up the main website probably isn’t illegal. But arranging the removal for a fee might make it internet fraud.
Since when is extortion and blackmail legal? And Child porn. Libel and tortious interference with business expectancy, which occurs when a person knowingly damages the plaintiff’s business relationship is certainly a valid charge here as these women cited Bollaert’s blackmail pictures causing a loss of their job prospects, and possible loss of employment. Businesses of tortious interference use this law with far less justification.
those folks who posted images on Bollaert’s website are the ones acting illegally. Bollaert was careful to remain inside the law even though he was providing the site. And there was NO child porn involved.
Again, he is (apparently) a smutty bad guy but, as Porter writes, the case may be difficult to prove.