MyEx.com Revenge Porn Site Shut Down By FTC & State of Nevada

In: Online Reputation Management - ORM

16 Jan 2018
by Chris Silver Smith

The MyEx.com revenge porn website that encouraged people to send in nude photos of ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends along with their personal information including their names, locations and other identifying data, has effectively been shut down by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Nevada.

The complaint filed in federal court named EMP Media Inc., Aniello “Neil” Infante, Shad “John” Applegate (a.k.a. “Shad Cottelli”), and one or more unknown parties doing business as “Yeicox Limited”. The FTC alleged that the MyEx.com operators’ practices were unfair acts or deceptive practices violating the FTC Act. Further, the State of Nevada alleged that the defendants’ conduct constituted deceptive trade practices under state law.

The MyEx.com Porn Revenge Website Defamed Men & Women by posting nude photos with their names without permission, along with unflattering descriptions.

The MyEx.com Porn Revenge Website Defamed Men & Women by posting nude photos with their names without permission, along with unflattering descriptions.

The FTC described the enterprise as a type of extortion in the complaint:

“The site has also extorted victims by requiring them to pay fees of hundreds of dollars to have their intimate pictures, videos, and information removed from the site.”

Just as with some other unsavory websites that purposefully post things that are damaging to people, the MyEx.com site would remove content if one paid hundreds to thousands of dollars in fees. As such, the website represented itself to be a legal enterprise, relying on the protections of Freedom of Speech and the immunity provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, or CDA. I wrote recently on how Section 230 of the CDA essentially had facilitated extortion businesses on the internet, and MyEx.com is a case in point. It’s quite tragic and ironic that part of a “decency act” set up an environment that resulted in publication of naked photos of people without their consent in as damaging a way as possible. In the not-too-distant past on the internet, sites like this might have been deemed to be legal, since they purported to only publish content provided by third parties, and were thus immune to any liability under Section 230. Now, however, the porn revenge types of sites are largely illegal.

At this point, there are 38 states that have laws specifically against the online posting of nude or “intimate” photos without subjects’ consent. Federal law also makes it a criminal offense to use computer services to intentionally harass or intimidate someone by engaging in conduct that “causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”

Even some of the larger internet companies like Google, Microsoft Bing, Facebook and Twitter provide more assistance to porn revenge victims than in the past.

This case highlights another aspect that I have seen in past cases as well. The reputation-attacking website appears to have pretended to be unconnected with the “reputation” firm that they referred their victims to, but the actual situation is suspicious enough that I suspect that the operators of the porn revenge site and the supposed “reputation” firm may have been the same. In at least one earlier case where a porn revenge site was shut down, the FTC indicated that the operators fraudulently pretended to be separate entities.

The MyEx.com site’s pages would state that they would not remove photos of individuals, but that they might do so if an “independent arbitration service” were to so advise on behalf of someone. They referred people to a list of “arbitration services”, which were apparently reputation management/repair agencies. One of those agencies was “Reputation Guard” (reputationguard.co). The arbitration services would charge fees to assist people, and would apparently pay a portion of those fees to MyEx.com to go to the trouble of removing some items.

Here’s where it gets murky very fast: the FTC complaint cited a company of one or more unknown individuals called “Yeicox Ltd” as a defendant. Yeicox Limited company appears to have possibly been set up by Quijano & Associates, a legal firm operating in Panama, Belize, Seychelles, and the British Virgin Islands that specializes in setting up shelf companies (shelf companies or shell companies are methods sometimes used to obscure ownership of companies). Reputation Guard appears to have been operating out of the Philippines, and I suspect might have also been operated behind the scenes by Yeicox Ltd.

Quijano & Associates are also the same folks that appear to have facilitated the setup of holding companies cited in some of the Panama Papers. (I am not suggesting that Quijano & Associates have done anything necessarily illegal or improper — setting up of companies, even shelf companies, is not necessarily illegal and can be done for noncriminal reasons. But, the FTC complaint suggests that our government may have been unable to determine who the actual operators of the Yeicox company may have been, and that trail seems to stop at the doorstep of Quijano & Associates.)

Some years ago, a number of websites with very unsavory business models (such as mugshots sites, arrest records, and porn revenge) began to find it difficult to have merchant accounts with major credit card companies, because charge card companies had decided that money from such sources was too icky. The credit card companies would cancel the merchant accounts, making it harder for these companies to make money. However, some reputation firms appear to have made financial partnerships with such attack sites on the back end, essentially serving as their financial transaction arms. In yet other cases, the reputation attack sites themselves have set up seemingly-separate businesses which are in fact other incarnations of themselves, duping the reputation victims into thinking they are dealing with other people.

This is the reason why it is a very, very bad idea to pay websites that are defaming you to remove materials. They may be cheating you. They may figure you are a victim they can milk again, so they may post the same content on yet another site, hoping to profit from you a second time. At the very least, your money incentivizes them to continue operating and attacking more people. If no one pays them at all, then they rapidly lose their motive and ability to remain in business.

I have assisted a number of porn revenge victims in the past, and if you are a victim you should consider getting help with your problem. While search engines are now more helpful about this, and social media sites may be more responsive, they are not devoted to representing you. The large websites where your information is visible may offer to remove images and videos on your behalf, they often will not remove pages and links to text descriptions which can be just as damaging to you. They also are not expert in located all of the various other copies of the same content that can get spread around, since the internet frequently generates many copies and republishings of website content in multiple other places.

It is great that there are increasingly more protections and government help to victims of porn revenge, and that sites like MyEx.com can get shut down. Now, if we could only get a little more support for victims of other types of online defamation as well…

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