< Why One Mom's Investigation Might Actually Stop Revenge Porn

Transcript

Friday, December 06, 2013

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Despite outrage from his victims and the public, Moore managed to keep the site running for two years. He seemed invincible. But then he crossed Charlotte Laws. She wrote the story in Jezebel that Bob mentioned earlier, a long and gripping account of how Laws finally brought Moore down. But  her efforts were rewarded with aggressive retaliation.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  I had people say they would kill me. I had three actual death threats. I had other people say things like, I will ruin your life. We know where you live. I got viruses bombarded onto my computer. I had this guy in a white car sitting outside of my house for two days. It was really quite scary.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Tell me how you first were introduced to him. CHARLOTTE LAWS:  Well, my daughter had taken photos of herself in her room with her cell phone in the mirror, back in October of 2011. One of them had been topless. She didn't intend to show the photo to anyone, but she sent them from her cell phone to her email and then to her computer. She was hacked and the  topless photo ended up on the website, isanyoneup.com.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Mm-hmm.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  She didn't understand how it could have happened. She was in tears. She was completely freaked out. And that’s when I first learned about revenge porn.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  And you asked Moore to take the photo down. He refused. Just to summarize some of what you did, you got in touch with Moore's publicist, with his attorney, hosting company, his internet service provider in France. You went to the LAPD. You filed a report with the FBI, and you had to wait a month for them to come and meet with you.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  By the time they got there, I had a 12-inch thick file.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Mm-hmm.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  I used to be a private investigator in the 1980s, and so I had really put Hunter Moore and the website under investigation [LAUGHS] and found many, many people who had been hacked by the same person as my daughter, who went by the fake name Gary Jones. Now, all of a sudden, the FBI had all these victims and, apparently, Gary Jones had been hacking into thousands of emails, not hundreds, thousands, and it was completely random.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  You spoke to a random sample of women who'd been posted on the site over a two-week period, and you say that fewer than half, only 36 percent actually were victims of revenge porn, as we understand it, insofar as that an ex was  taking revenge. Forty percent had been hacked, like your daughter. And 12 percent were actually Photoshopped. The  people’s heads were being superimposed on other bodies. It wasn't even them, and yet, they would be suffering the consequences, right?

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  That's absolutely correct. Over 50 percent had either been hacked or had been Photoshopped.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Now, you wanted to post Hunter's actual address. The FBI told you not to do that. But, ultimately, the FBI did raid Moore’s house, which I guess was his mother's house, broke the door down. And what then?

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  I had wanted to put his real address on the Internet because so many people had wanted to serve him legal papers and they didn't know how to find him. But they said, we’d really rather you wait. We don’t want him to be alerted to this investigation. But in November of 2012, and this is after he’d already taken the site down, he said he was going to put the site back up. By that time, it didn't matter ‘cause the FBI had already raided his house anyway. And so, I was scared but I put his home address on the Internet. And that's when everything really went ballistic.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  And during this particularly scary period, a mystery man emerged.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  On my Twitter feed, I got a tweet from someone who said, please follow me, I need to direct message you. So I did. And this individual identified himself as being with the underground group Anonymous and said he needed to phone me. He told me how to protect my computer network, and they did go after Hunter Moore. They crashed his servers. They doxed him, which means they put his personal information online, including his social security number. And it seemed to really work because Hunter Moore became very, very quiet.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  What ultimately stopped him was harassment from that secret group of online vigilantes called Anonymous and the FBI, but it wasn't the legal system. It seemed that there weren't sufficient legal protections against a guy like Moore. Where does that stand now?

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  We have passed a law in California as of October 1st. It’s not a perfect law, but we are going to be bringing forth an amendment on December 17th, and we are hoping that it will protect 100 percent of the victims out there in the state of California. Currently, the only other state that has legislation in place is New Jersey, which is a much more comprehensive law.

 

But what’s really good about the California law is that it has spurred on so many other states. There have been proposals in New York and Wisconsin and Maryland and Kansas. Victims should have to give consent in order for their nude or topless picture to be online. That is the goal. The New Jersey law says that. The California law is flawed currently because it only protects a victim if someone else takes the picture of them.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  So if you take a picture of yourself, like your daughter did, with no intention of distributing it, if that stuff is hacked and posted, you have no legal protection?

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  Well, if you’re hacked, you do because hacking is already against the law. That’s the reason why the FBI took the case, is because of the hacking, not because of the revenge porn. So if my daughter had sent her picture to someone and someone had posted it, the FBI wouldn’t have taken the case.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  So how’s Kayla? I mean, all this work that you’ve done may have actually drawn more attention to that one exposed breast she never meant to show the world.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  Yes, she’s fine now that the photo is off the Internet. She understands how important the issue is. The only thing that concerns her is some of her male friends have said, oh, I saved your picture. I have it on my computer. And so, she has to maintain a Google alert on her name, probably for the rest of her life, to see if that photo pops up again.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Ugh!

  [LAWS LAUGHS]

Charlotte, thank you very much.

CHARLOTTE LAWS:  Thank you for having me.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Charlotte Laws’ account of her battle with Hunter Moore originally was published on xoJane.

  [MUSIC UP & UNDER]

BOB GARFIELD:  That’s it for this week’s show. On the Media was produced by Alex Goldman, PJ Vogt, Sarah Abdurrahman, Chris Neary and Khrista Rypl. We had more help from Kimmie Regler. And the show was edited – by Brooke. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. Our engineer this week was Andrew Dunne.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Katya Rogers is our Senior Producer. Jim Schachter is WNYC’s Vice President for News. Bassist composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. On the Media is produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR. I’m Brooke Gladstone.

BOB GARFIELD:  And I’m Bob Garfield.

Guests:

Charlotte Laws