California Arrests the Owner of a Revenge Porn Site. Other States Should Follow Its Lead.  

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Dec. 11 2013 1:00 PM

California Arrests the Owner of a Revenge Porn Site. Other States Should Follow Its Lead.  

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The arrest of Kevin Bollaert is a promising development in the fight against revenge porn

Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

California is getting serious with efforts to end the scourge known as "revenge porn," in which men who want to hurt women (usually as "revenge" for dumping them) post naked photos of the women online and then encourage their community of fellow misogynists to harass them. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law explicitly banning the practice earlier this year, but now Attorney General Kamala Harris has upped the ante by announcing the arrest of Kevin Christopher Bollaert of San Diego for running a revenge porn site where men would publish women's naked photos, names, and social media information, so as to make it easier for the site's audience to harass the victims. Bollaert is being charged with 31 counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and extortion. 

The extortion charges stem from Bollaert's alleged blackmail scheme attached to the website. After posting the naked pictures and personal information of the women, Bollaert would email them and demand that they give him money in order to take the listing down. 

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This arrest is a promising development in the fight against revenge porn. Victims of this abusive practice frequently find it's hard to get justice, because they originally consented to have the pictures taken or even took the pictures themselves. But obviously, something has to be done to stop this. A woman's right to terminate her relationship with a man is seriously imperiled if he's allowed to "punish" her for it by shaming her in public with naked pictures and using an audience of strangers online to expand the scope of the harassment. Indeed, the best way to understand revenge porn is to understand it as a form of crowdsourced domestic violence. Instead of a lone man stalking and harassing a woman he has determined has no right to leave him, a group of men are working together to do it. 

That's why it's important that California is going after the man who runs the website instead of just the individual men who post the pictures. These communities help men with abusive obsessions amplify their reach, creating a kind of 24/7 stalking situation for the women they wish to hurt. Shutting down the sites might not shut down their behavior, but it will shut down an especially potent tool for getting to their victims. If this strategy works, it might cause other men who want to run revenge porn websites to think twice before buying that URL.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today

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