Hi Reddit! This is my first time with AMA. I’m a little unsure about the process. I’m Charlotte Laws. Some call me the Erin Brockovich of Revenge Porn (RP) because I have become a clearinghouse for RP victims around the country. You can read the article about my experiences here on Jezebel. http://jezebel.com/one-womans-dangerous-war-against-the-most-hated-man-on-1469240835
I started an FBI investigation into hacked nude pictures that ended up on a notorious revenge porn website. The website owner and his alleged hacker were arrested on Jan 23, 2014.
I spend a great deal of my time encouraging legislators to introduce and pass anti-revenge porn bills. I am also a boardmember for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a nonprofit designed to protect victims of online harassment. As for my past…. I used to be a private detective, local politician in Southern CA and lecturer at the FBI Academy in Quantico. Proof is on my Twitter page @charlottelaws (See photos) AMA from 3 pm - 4 pm (EST). Thanks so much everyone! I really enjoyed the AMA. I have to stop now, but we will do it again! Have a nice weekend!

Hi everyone. It is Sunday, March 16. My Reddit AMA yesterday was supposed to be an hour, but I extended it to 1 hour and 45 minutes. I answered all questions posed during that period. Today, I revisited this page and found an additional 1600 comments. I will take another half hour today to answer some of recently-posted questions. However, beyond that, I will simply have to do another AMA down the road. Okay... it is now Sunday at 4 pm. I have answered way more than 30 minutes of questions today. Thanks again to everyone who posted in this forum. Have a nice Sunday.

Comments: 2112 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

jmcentire2475 karma

Dr. Laws, while I understand the reasons you dislike RP; I'm very concerned about the ramifications of the laws you're encouraging. You said your interest in RP came when your daughter's email was hacked and a topless photo of her was leaked. There are already anti-hacking laws. Additionally, if we can expect people to be responsible when it comes to online activity like banking, why can't we expect some amount of common sense when it comes to shuffling digital images of ourselves? This wasn't a case of someone being unknowingly photographed. It was a case of someone being willingly photographed and then transmitting that photograph electronically to one or more persons.

In one of your posts, you say:

Revenge porn is legal in all states except three. However, 22 states have introduced legislation to outlaw it. Website operators are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. A federal law would be ideal because then it would be possible to hold the website operators responsible rather than simply the people who submit content.

This sort of a law sets an unreasonable precedent. If website owners become responsible for things which are said or shown on their websites, they will have to manually filter everything themselves. There's simply too much data being generated for this to be reasonable. Additionally, why stop there? Why not hold telecom companies and ISPs responsible for the actions of people using their infrastructure? Can I sue the state for having built the roads which allowed the drunk driver to damage my car -- not to mention suing the driver, the people who maintain the roads, the people who built the car, maintained the car, sold the car, made the liquor, sold the liquor, et cetera?

The only reason people want to target the website owners is because the website owners are much more accessible targets. These laws are vengeance laws seeking to exact punishment on someone, anyone just so the victim can feel vindicated rather than remorseful about allowing their significant other to record an intimate moment. Because a technology can be used for something distasteful does not mean we should ban that technology. It's a ridiculous stance for someone who has a doctorate in Social Ethics.

  • Edit: thanks for gold.

Also, when speaking about remorse versus vindication above, I don't intend to suggest that anyone who appears nude in media should feel remorse. Rather, those who are seeking legal action under laws which cast very wide nets seeking accountability likely feel remorseful.

hesitantsunshine297 karma

These laws are vengeance laws seeking to exact punishment on someone, anyone just so the victim can feel vindicated rather than remorseful about allowing their significant other to record an intimate moment.

Why should anyone feel remorseful about allowing their significant other to record an intimate moment ? The victims should feel vindicated, they did nothing wrong. Why should people's intimacy be hijacked and used to cause them pain and shame ?

Canyoutellrarariot79 karma

Yup. There's an awful amount of victim blaming happening in this AMA. This just has shades of "they were asking for it" rape culture rhetoric tied to it. These women were hacked, this was completely private and these people committed a crime just to humiliate them. If someone hacked my computer and stole my social security I would want them prosecuted and my identity back. And so would everyone on this thread. If I bought something at a store whose database was later hacked, is that my fault? What crime did these women commit that seeking justice for them would be ethically wrong? Taking a pictures is suddenly a sin deserving punishment now?

Even if these women sent these pictures to someone else, it's not the woman who should be shamed for the pictures being disseminated. It's the man or woman who violated her trust who should be ashamed. Why is it that a website that's so sensitive to doxxing so defensive about the right to ruin a person's privacy and reputation?

And no amount of overly elaborate scenarios with fictional scheming people is going to change the fact that these laws are important for women everywhere. People on this thread can keep writing these hypothetical situations where these laws are damaging to internet safety and privacy. But right here, right now the reality is that hundreds of innocent women are having their private lives violated on dozens of internet site, even this one.

drlaws8 karma

Thank you for your very intelligent comment.

drlaws135 karma

This is an excellent question. You posted this five hours after the AMA ended so I never saw it, but since I am doing another half hour of question-answering today (March 16), I will respond. I don’t think we hold people responsible when their bank account data is stolen or used for improper purposes. We also don’t hold a restaurant customer responsible when he gives his credit card to a waiter to charge his meal. If the waiter disappears with the card and charges 50 meals on it, we don’t say the credit card holder is to blame for entrusting his credit card to a waiter who disappeared with it. We blame the waiter. The same should hold for a woman who entrusts a photo to a boyfriend or husband. I think the victim-blaming surrounding revenge porn is simply a by-product of women-hating. I did not realize the level of misogyny in our culture until I started speaking out on this issue.
As for the second part of your question about holding the website owner responsible…. We already do this with child pornography. Are you saying that this is too much of a burden for website owners? There are a number of exceptions to the first amendment: child pornography, incitement, obscenity, fighting words, libel, fraud and discrimination. I believe revenge porn should likewise be an exception. The First Amendment’s protection of free speech is by no means absolute. Are you saying free speech should be unhampered and child pornography should be legal or website owners should not have duties with respect to it?
Additionally, free speech is about public matters. It is about voicing legitimate concerns in society. Nude and sexually explicit pictures of ordinary people is different; it is a private matter. In the case U.S. vs. Petrovic, the court held that First Amendment protections should be less rigorous for private matters. Website operators also currently have duties with respect to US Copyright law. They must expeditiously remove a copyrighted photo when served with a DMCA request. Are you saying this should be changed? That this presents too much of a burden for a website operator? Revenge porn does a great amount of harm and provides no benefit for society. These are some statistics compiled by the CCRI. 89% of victims suffer severe emotional distress 77% have faced repercussions in social, occupational or other areas of functioning. 49% fear their professional reputation is tarnished forever. 45% were stalked or harassed online. 30% were stalked in person. 51% fear discovery of the nude or topless pictures by their current or future children. 48% contemplated suicide At least three women have killed themselves over revenge porn.

picturebooks77 karma

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this means owners of revenge-porn websites specifically would be held responsible for the creation and maintenance of such websites, not that owners of any old website like reddit would be held responsible for the content its users submit.

jmcentire148 karma

How do you differentiate between reddit and "revenge-porn" websites? Having a clear metric which unambiguously bifurcates legality is central to any well-written law. While a famous quote, "I know it when I see it" is a notoriously bad solution.

Additionally, Dr. Laws is overloading the term "revenge porn." She noted her disappointment in the conventional understanding that suggests RP is sourced in angry exes. Her daughter, according to what we've been lead to believe, was the victim of a hacker. In another post, she mentioned photoshop. Neither of the latter seem to be fueled by the idea of "revenge." This, to me, would be central to the concept of "revenge porn."

If we go by what Dr. Laws has said, why wouldn't sites like reddit be held responsible for the content posted by its users? The best bet is to determine if the website bills itself as a source of RP. The obvious problem then is that RP sites will simply claim that they had no idea that a photo was photoshopped or acquired illicitly.

If you attempt to penalize them, anyway... what happens when someone from /r/gonewild decides that posting was a mistake and claims they hadn't given permission for the image to be uploaded? How do you verify that consent was collected properly? Even in the "industry," collecting consent is problematic and currently relies upon collecting a physical signature and a photo copy of a picture id. Will reddit then be expected to send representatives and notaries public to user's houses to collect releases?

In the modern, digital era, the scale necessitates innovation. Conventional means are no longer reasonable or even possible. As a consequence, we must be particularly mindful of the potentially far-reaching ramifications of any legal wording.

Lawtonfogle34 karma

How do you differentiate between reddit and "revenge-porn" websites?

How do you differentiate between 4chan and a child porn website. Basically, if they clearly have some purpose other than hosting the illegal material and fully cooperate with the removal of the legal material and the tracking of those who uploaded/posted it, then they are safe.

If you attempt to penalize them, anyway... what happens when someone from /r/gonewild decides that posting was a mistake and claims they hadn't given permission for the image to be uploaded? How do you verify that consent was collected properly

How does gonewild even ensure the posters are 18+? While they base it off of look, there are childlike adults and adultlike children, so not only are they likely discriminating against childlike adults, they likely are hosting child porn of children who look very much like an adult.

drlaws5 karma

18 USC 2257 requires the porn industry to index all "actors." In other words, they have to have a driver's license for each person. For some reason this law is applied only to traditional porn, not revenge porn. If revenge porn website owners were required to measure up to this requirement, they would be put out of business.

ceslek682 karma

Which revenge porn site? I mean specifically.

drlaws263 karma

The site was called Is Anyone Up?

No_Hetero450 karma

Are you the person that made that site disappear? Good job.

drlaws189 karma


moon_at_the_wayside290 karma

How can these revenge porn sites be allowed to operate when they don't any consent forms or proof of age of the performers when normal porn companies are required to have those forms? Why doesn't the FBI doesn't shut revenge porn sites down for those reasons?

drlaws203 karma

Revenge porn is legal in all states except three. However, 22 states have introduced legislation to outlaw it. Website operators are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. A federal law would be ideal because then it would be possible to hold the website operators responsible rather than simply the people who submit content. As for age (minors), the site owners claim that they check -- don't ask me how. Sometimes underage girls are found on these sites and then the FBI do investigate.

pixelthug195 karma

What if they just host the sites in some other country?

drlaws150 karma

If the site is hosted outside of the US, then copyright law does not apply. The sites that have been victimizing Americans have primarily been located in America. Anti-revenge porn criminal laws would permit law enforcement to arrest American website owners regardless of where their site is hosted.

TuRondhu103 karma

Your Wiki page says your religion is Jainism. When did you choose to follow the religion?

P.S. I am from India and grew up around a lot of Jains.

drlaws77 karma

I subscribe to the principle of nonviolence. I have great love for animals and nature. I feel Jainism truly honors the love and respect.

Alshon_Jeffries90 karma

What got you interested in this subject in the first place?

drlaws153 karma

I got drawn into the underground world of revenge porn when my daughter's topless picture was hacked from her email.

drlaws51 karma

It is very hard to see comments that are on threads. If I don't reply to you, it is probably because I could not find your comment. It is easiest if you start a new thread.

LLv240 karma

Is there a difference between a hacked stolen photo posted, or a photo taken by an ex-boyfriend, and this thing where people photoshop someone else's face onto a porno photo? I mean, in terms of the rights.

drlaws36 karma

Yes, hacking is already illegal in all 50 states. If a picture is taken by a victim, she has copyright law on her side. Same if she owns the headshot of the morphed photo. The circumstances dictate the rights. That's why when Facebook considered funding a lawsuit on behalf of victims from our group, they were going to have 3 lawsuits: one for hacked victims, one for photoshopped ones, and one for the angry exe situation.

Avrizinth38 karma

You seem to reference only females, continuously, when discussing revenge porn or the possibility of it. Not a question, but it does kind of irk me.

drlaws120 karma

I completely understand. The main reason I started doing it is for writing purposes. It is a pain to keep writing "he or she" or "him and her." Plus, there are many more female victims. But there ARE male victims as well, and they can be just as upset about having nude images online.

dragonbonheur37 karma

Good job fighting the good fight. What is your opinion about government agencies gathering webcam feeds indiscriminately? Do you feel they should be treated different from any other hacker?

drlaws45 karma

It is frightening when the government gets too much power. Yes, I think they should be treated like anyone else.

dharmabum4226 karma

What are your recommendations for best practices in terms of protecting ourselves?

drlaws29 karma

Tough Internet passwords and not the same password for everything. Keep copies of all photos of yourself (because you may need to prove copyright some day). Keep a Google search on your name so you know what is being said or posted about you online (including photos). These are a few suggestions.

dkmdlb21 karma

ITT: trolls. I guarantee it

drlaws42 karma

If only trolls would stay under the bridge where they belong. Ha.

ZebrajustZebra5 karma

Well, until now, none, or they were removed.

drlaws4 karma

Fingers crossed it stays that way.

Joliet_Jake_Blues9 karma

Drlaws, reddit hosts a /r/photoplunder subreddit where people's naked pics are posted without their consent.

Do you want to shut reddit down?

drlaws5 karma

I have not seen this subreddit. But based on your description, yes, I would shut it down. There are plenty of folks who want their nude photos online (self-submits) so why humiliate people who don't want to be exposed?

alexanatta7 karma

please make sure hunter never gets out of jail, i really don't like him

drlaws7 karma

It will be interesting to see what happens at the trial, which begins in Sept.

Bob33336 karma

What does your organization do to try and filter out the kooks and crazies who are just looking to get their ex in trouble by making false claims of revenge porn?

drlaws3 karma

I don't understand the question. Our organization helps victims and helps legislators with wording for bills.

cantbelieveilostit6 karma

No question, just wanted to say that you're awesome, and thanks for being so badass!

drlaws6 karma


drlaws5 karma

I am leaving the forum now. Thanks to everyone who participated in this AMA.

LtlAnalDwlngButtMnky4 karma

What are your thoughts on sites like my-ex and other sites that are hosted outside the US and charge exorbitant fees for them to remove your pictures? I think it's despicable, but because they (in this case) are located in the Philippines, US laws can't apply to them.

drlaws5 karma

When a website charges fees, this is extortion. Several website operators have been arrested recently for doing just this. You are right that criminal charges can be difficult when sites are located or hosted outside of the US. Luckily, several countries have or are looking at putting anti-revenge porn laws in place. The issue is getting worldwide attention.

Skeeders3 karma

You dun good work

drlaws2 karma


EvilTech5150-4 karma

Now, revenge porn vs revenge sex. Might want to describe the difference.


I believe I understand one to be sort of fun, and the other involves flooding your most depraved sex acts on dozens of upload sites to make sure you former partner is now fap material for random people all over the world.

Of course, finding the person who circulated the porn is probably going to be easier than stamping out the images and videos. You can probably send all sorts of dire threats to some of the semi-legit sites, and get them to take down the photos. Of course, if it's a trading site on one of numerous "dark nets" or alternate directory service based networks, copies are probably going to be out there forever.

drlaws10 karma

I just read the article. The only link I see between revenge sex and revenge porn is that both involve trying to alleviate anger or upset. I don't personally endorse either.

stellarhits-14 karma

OK. :-) Thank you. I can get my Q. I sent to you in your email, too, and will (re)post it here.

Professor Laws? You're doing a *very *good job with your Q.A session. You are *very interesting! :-) May I ask, please, how long is this going to last?

Thank you.


drlaws3 karma

It ends at 1 pm Pacific time. Thanks.

Macroaggression-17 karma

Is it true you're trying to outlaw all forms of amateur porn? Shouldn't people be free to post their nudes online if they're consenting adults?

drlaws51 karma

I am not trying to outlaw porn. I only want to criminalize revenge porn. Consent is key.

EvilTech5150-17 karma

I think the problem comes when you have things like "post consent rape", one person decides a sex act was "rape" when they never hear from their one night stand partner again.

A similar thing could happen with porn. A couple posts a video of themselves, and 4 months later break up. One screams revenge porn, and tries to have their former partner arrested.

False accusations of sex crimes are rarely prosecuted to any real degree, so it's a very low risk crime.

drlaws20 karma

I think consent should always be required in order to post a nude photo of someone. That picture can damage the person's economic and employment opportunities and relationships. It can ruin her life. She may some day have children who are taunted when the nude photos of their mommy re-appears online.

EvilTech51501 karma

Probably they'll have to go back underground if they overdo this in the US, which seems to be the trend for any regulation.

Alternate DNS services, .onion, .bit, VPN options also apply. Other nations are also in the process of creating their own internet registries outside of ICANN. IPV6 also allows some interesting possibilities.

drlaws1 karma

I am not sure about all the "code" you write - I am not as proficient as you are at Internet-related stuff. Ha, ha. But other countries introducing anti-revenge porn laws (i.e. Brazil). A law has already passed in Israel. The issue has really gained momentum all over the world.

Gufgufguf-37 karma

Awfully full of yourself.

Thanks for giving no shits about speech!

drlaws16 karma

I care very much about free speech.