California man faces 20 years in historic revenge-porn conviction

A California man has been found guilty of the largest revenge porn case to date.

San Diegoan Kevin Bollaert was convicted Monday on 27 felony counts of identity theft and extortion related to his site, YouGotPosted, which published naked images of women without their consent, and the accompanying changemyreputation.com, which charged the victims to remove the photos. Bollaert wasn’t actually charged with violating California’s state law against revenge porn, which passed in 2013.

Bollaert faces up to 20 years in prison, the Associated Press reported.

As noted by revenge porn expert Adam Steinbaugh, who found almost a year before Bollaert’s indictment that the two websites were likely run by the same person, this is the first time that the person in charge of a revenge porn website has actually been convicted. Hunter Moore, who was arrested for running the site Is Anyone Up and faces hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), is still awaiting trial.

Bollaert’s lawyer, Alex Landon, previously tried to argue in court that Bollaert wasn’t technically committing extortion, which traditionally threatens to hurt someone before asking for compensation. Bollaert would post the nude photos first, he argued, then directed his victims to a site to pay him to take them down.

Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who represents revenge porn victims and a board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which fights for revenge porn legislation, welcomed the result. “The great news for somebody like me, who represents victims in civil court, is that this guilty plea paves the way for victims to bring civil lawsuits,” she told the Daily Dot. “However, we’ll get nowhere without robust criminal laws, too, that deter both the uploaders and the site operators.”

Bollaert’s charges stemmed from sixteen women who all claimed they’d found their pictures on the site and had no other way to remove them but to pay Bollaert as much as $350. Investigators also found his site made $900 a month in advertising.

Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III

Kevin Collier

Kevin Collier

A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.