California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.
California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.
The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.
During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.
"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants.
Also, the agents discovered that Bollaert's site rejected photographs of nude cats:
More from the Attorney General's announcement below:
Court documents allege that, in December 2012, Bollaert created the website ugotposted.com, which allows the anonymous, public posting of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission. Commonly knows as revenge porn, the photos are typically obtained consensually by the poster during a prior relationship or are stolen or hacked. Unlike many other revenge porn websites where the subject of the photos is anonymous, ugotposted.com required that the poster include the subject’s full name, location, age and facebook profile link.
California Penal Code sections 530.5 and 653m (b) make it illegal to willfully obtain someone’s personal identifying information, including name, age and address, for any unlawful purpose, including with the intent to annoy or harass.
Court documents also allege that Bollaert created a second website, changemyreputation.com, in October 2012, which he used when individuals contacted ugotposted.com requesting that content be removed from the site. Bollaert would allegedly extort victims by replying with a changemyreputation.com email address and offering to remove the content for a fee ranging from $299.99 to $350, which could be paid using an online PayPal account referenced in the emails. Ballaert allegedly told investigators, according to court documents, that he made around $900 per month from advertising on the site and records obtained from his changemyreputation.com PayPal account indicate that he received payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars.
According to court documents, ugotposted.com’s registration listed a billing address in San Diego, CA.
The arrest comes after a six-month investigation by the California Attorney General’s eCrime unit.
Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.
Individuals who feel they are victims of ugotposted.com or other revenge porn websites should file a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office here.
Please note that a complaint contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Kevin Christopher Bollaert, must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The state's complaint is here (PDF).
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.