A Texas attorney and at least 23 women have started a class-action suit against revenge-porn site Texxxan.com and its host, GoDaddy.com, in what might be a significant milestone in the evolution of laws against revenge porn.

“Revenge porn” is the most common form of “involuntary porn,” the publication of nude or sexually explicit photos without the subject’s consent or even knowledge. The photos are usually submitted by malicious ex-lovers or occasionally by hackers who broke into the victims’ phones or computers to steal the pictures. 

The man most associated with revenge porn is Hunter Moore, who arguably invented the genre in 2011 with his website Is Anyone Up?

That site went down in April 2012, but a few months later, two other dubious entrepreneurs founded another involuntary-porn website, Is Anyone Down. It works much the same way: soliciting anonymous submissions of nude photos, along with the models’ identifying information. Victims who find their photos and information on the site can have them taken down—for a hefty fee.

Texxxan.com operates on a similar model, except that it limits its involuntary porn submissions to people from Texas. That’s why Beaumont attorney John Morgan is suing under state, rather than federal, law.

Most involuntary porn sites say they are protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which “grants interactive online services of all types, including news websites, blogs, forums, and listservs, broad immunity from certain types of legal liability stemming from content created by others.” Victims could, in theory, sue whoever submitted the content—except such submissions to revenge-porn sites are almost always done anonymously.

This apparently leaves the victims with nobody to hold accountable. However, Morgan says that section 230 doesn’t apply to involuntary porn sites because they actively solicit content without the models’ approval. But Morgan intends to also sue Texxxan.com’s (presumably not anonymous) subscribers; the site switched to subscription-only as soon as news of the class action suit went public.

One of the plaintiffs in Morgan’s suit against Texxxan is Beaumort resident Hollie Toups, notable for being one of the relatively few revenge-porn victims to make her full name public. Other plaintiffs are members of the organizations End Revenge Porn and Women Against Revenge Porn, both founded by involuntary porn victims.

End Revenge Porn is also hosting an online petition calling for revenge porn sites to be made illegal. The petition explains how current laws fall short of that goal. It states, in part: 

“The non-consensual posting of material like this has led some victims to suffer extortion, identity theft, defamation, stalking, and harassment at the hands of the perpetrator and other Internet users.”

Photo via Jamiesrabbits/Flickr