Man who ran 'revenge porn' website faces 20 years in jail

Kevin Bollaert charged people up to $350 to remove explicit images posted by ex-lovers

The lesson of this story may be that one should think long and hard before committing those most intimate moments to the wiles of a video recorder. In other words, keep all carnal activities off camera.

This week, in what is believed to be the first such example of this particular malaise of the digital age, a court in California convicted a man of running a so-called revenge pornography website, on which people posted naked images of their ex-lovers and then charged the victims to take them down.

Kevin Bollaert, 28, from San Diego, was found guilty on Monday of identity theft and extortion and 25 other counts. He faces up to 20 years in prison, the Associated Press reported.

The decision is believed to have been the first conviction of a revenge porn website operator, although two months ago a Los Angeles man who posted a topless photo of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook was sentenced to a year in jail for violating new legislation in California introduced to address the issue. Bollaert was not prosecuted under those new laws.

Prosecutors said between 2012 to 2013, Bollaert allowed people to anonymously post more than 10,000 images, mainly of women, on his now-defunct ugotposted.com website without the knowledge of those in the pictures. The victims’ names, cities where they lived and other information such as links to their Facebook profiles also were posted.

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Kevin Bollaert from San Diego was convicted of running a revenge porn website

Reports said he charged up to $350 a time to remove the images.

“It ruined my life and I’m still going through it,” one woman told the court, explaining that she was thrown out of her home after nude photos of her were posted. “I lost my family. They think that I brought shame on them. My reputation is ruined.”

Prosecutor Tawnya Austin told jurors that the people whose images were posted on the website were harassed by people who tried to contact them through Facebook or by email. More than two dozen people were named as victims in the criminal complaint.

Officials said the term revenge porn related to the fact that the images were posted by ex-lovers who had been dumped or had fallen out with a partner and were acting in retaliation. Last year the Economist quoted John Di Giacomo of Revision Legal, a Michigan-based law firm, who said there were at least 3,000 porn websites around the world feature the revenge genre. He said the number was rising.

The San Diego County Superior Court jury was unable to reach verdicts on two charges of identity theft and conspiracy and a judge declared a mistrial on the counts.

Bollaert’s lawyer, Emily Rose-Weber, argued in court that her client may have conducted an immoral business that took advantage of “human weakness” but that he had not broken a law by allowing others to post the images

She said: “It’s gross, it’s offensive, but it’s not illegal.”

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