Revenge of the Nerds
Most people deal with bad press by pretending they haven’t seen it or starting a good old-fashioned Twitter feud.
A lawsuit claims that one disgruntled businessman from New Jersey opted to go a different, much quirkier route, by linking journalists’ domain names to a porn website specializing in blow job videos.
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On a drizzly evening in Tampa in 2006, 23-year-old Holly Jacobs was enjoying a typical date night with Ryan Seay, her boyfriend of a few short months. As the time to head home approached, he walked her to her car and reluctantly kissed her goodbye. She clung dreamily to the sweater Mr. Seay had given her earlier in the evening, when she’d said she was cold. As her car pulled out of Mr. Seay’s driveway, she noticed it: a little heart that he had traced in the raindrops collected on her rear windshield.
Years later, when they’d finally broken it off for good, Ms. Jacobs, now 29, says that Mr. Seay did the unthinkable: He uploaded naked photos of her to the web. Photos that she’d sent to him in confidence. He allegedly posted them to scores of revenge porn sites, online hubs where scorned exes publish intimate photos without their former lovers’ consent. She says he attached her name, email address and a screenshot of her Facebook profile to the nude photos along with commentary about what a slut she was. Knowing that she was working as a teaching assistant at a local university, he allegedly uploaded a video of her masturbating with the title “Masturbation 201 by Professor Holli Thometz.”
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Though revenge porn–the practice of posting pornographic photos of someone without their consent–still largely exists within a legal grey area, lawyers, hackers and victim’s rights advocates are working hard to find ways to prosecute those who disseminate it. New Jersey now has a law on the books that makes distribution of revenge porn a third degree crime, which can net you three to five years in jail. Now, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office has proposed a bill to the Florida state legislature that would make it a third-degree felony to publish revenge porn in Florida.
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Craig Brittain, the 28-year-old operator of the revenge porn website Is Anybody Down, may have obtained some of the site’s photos by catfishing women on Craigslist. According to an investigation by CBS Denver. Mr. Brittain reportedly pretended to be a woman on Craigslist’s W4W section where he solicited nude photos from unsuspecting women.
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Here at Betabeat, we’ve done some extensive reporting on the scourge of “revenge porn” websites, places where scorned exes or angry friends can upload intimate photos of women–and sometimes men–without their consent. Victims of revenge porn have been sexually and violently harassed, lost jobs and friends and even had to change their names because their photos ended up on one of the numerous revenge porn hubs.
Now, many women are bravely fighting back in a class action lawsuit against one site and its hosting provider, GoDaddy. Hackers, lawyers and activists are working diligently to confront a complex legal issue. Still, revenge porn sites continue to operate largely unaffected, despite the fact that more and more victims are speaking out about what happened to them.
Betabeat makes no secret of its disdain for Go Daddy’s series of “smart vs. sexy” ads. They make this reporter want to toss a brick in the shape of Andrea Dworkin‘s face through a plate glass window before escaping in a getaway car blaring Bikini Kill, Thelma and Louise style.
The august executives of Go Daddy, however, are very proud of their Super Bowl ad, featuring supermodel Bar Refaeli loudly and lewdly sucking face with an anonymous tech nerd meant to symbolize “smart.” They’ve released a statement trumpeting how many new customers the spot delivered (in conjunction with a second ad, which featuring nagging wives trying to talk their husbands out of brilliant ideas).
But it seems the announcement was primarily an excuse for the executives of Go Daddy to laugh publicly at their own jokes.
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When Hunter Moore shut down Is Anyone Up, the web’s most notorious revenge porn site, a host of copycat sites quickly cropped up to fill the void, though none have come close to generating as much traffic as Mr. Moore’s.
One called Is Anybody Down, however, goes a step beyond humiliating people by posting their naked photos without consent. The site claims to hold an “independent” partnership with another site that charges a $250 fee for the removal of photos. Now several women in Colorado are speaking out against its founder, Craig Brittain, and these extortionist policies.
When it comes to advertising, it’s hard out there for a porn company–not that one of the Internet’s biggest porn websites really needs to advertise itself. As all those pearl-clutchy “Vine’s Porn Problem” posts will tell you, porn is everywhere on the Internet, and most of those NSFW videos can be viewed on PornHub, a popular adult video streaming site.
Now, BuzzFeed reports that PornHub has created a totally SFW Super Bowl ad, only to have it harshly rejected by the bigwigs at CBS. (We’ve reached out to CBS in order to independently verify that it rejected the ad.)
Back in April 2012, the HuffPo cabal-backed Soho TechLabs launched a social travel site called CasaHop that allowed users to “connect with people worldwide to trade homes for vacations and more.” Now, Soho TechLab’s CEO Paul Berry told Betabeat that the incubator is shutting down CasaHop in order to focus more on RebelMouse, a tool for building social webpages that has seen explosive growth in recent months.
“CasaHop never gained the traction it needed,” Mr. Berry told Betabeat by phone. “The timing was off. Airbnb is really in a winner takes all situation in this area. I hope one day someone is going to break out and make this an enormous idea because I love home exchanges, but too few people feel comfortable with other people staying in their place while they’re away.”
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Oh Go Daddy, what are we going to do with you? The domain registration company is embarking on a campaign to rehabilitate its frat-tastic public image, and today, the New York Times provides a preview of the commercial that’s meant as an opening salvo. And how, pray tell, are they hoping to convince us?
The spot includes a barely dressed woman, but she is treated in a tongue-in-cheek manner. “Behold Charlene,” intones an announcer. “Charlene is how GoDaddy attracts domain name customers.”
The nymph is joined by an awkward-looking GoDaddy technical employee. “But there is also Carl,” the announcer declares. “Carl is how GoDaddy keeps customers.”
In the unlikely event that that message was too subtle for you, the commercial concludes by saying outright that Go Daddy is, “Charlene on the outside, Carl on the inside.”
Because we are nothing if not generous here at Betabeat, let us offer Go Daddy a spot of free advice: Maybe don’t attempt to solve your lady problems with a commercial that is, basically, the very definition of the double standard? Here’s what that voiceover says to us: “Ladies are for breast-gawking, dudes are for computer-fixing.”
Just a thought.