Conviction Affirmed for Revenge Porn Site Admin

     (CN) — The man behind a website of nude photos, names, and Facebook links of ex-girlfriends and personal enemies was properly convicted of extortion, a California appeals court ruled.
     Kevin Bollaert, then 24, created UGotPosted.com in San Diego in 2012 — using nude photos, captioned with names, hometowns, and Facebook links, without the people’s permission.
     While most of the pictures were taken by or for former significant others or friends for private viewing, others were taken while the victim was drugged or otherwise unaware.
     Bollaert refused to post pictures that he deemed “garbage” — including ones that had no nudity — as well as photos of minors.
     Upon receiving harassing and vulgar messages from strangers, many victims contacted the site administrator — “James Smith,” i.e. Bollaert — to try to remove their photos and info.
     Bollaert required the victims to provide two forms of identification, show an unspecified sign, and pay money to an account on his other site, ChangeMyReputation.com.
     A Justice Department forensic auditor later found that victims paid almost $30,150, which was eventually forwarded to Bollaert’s personal PayPal account.
     Plus, Bollaert received about $900 in monthly income from advertising off the site.
     Though Bollaert felt the site was “kinda fun and entertaining” at first, he ultimately took it down because it was causing him stress and “ruining his life.”
     A jury convicted Bollaert of extortion and the unlawful use of personal identifying information, as well as invasion of privacy by disclosure of private facts for certain victims.
     The trial court declared a mistrial as to certain identity theft and conspiracy charges, and sentenced Bollaert to eight years of local confinement and 10 years of mandatory supervision.
     Bollaert appealed, arguing that he is immune from liability as an “interactive computer service” or “access software provider” under the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
     But California’s Fourth Appellate District affirmed the lower court’s ruling Tuesday, finding that Bollaert “willfully obtained” the victims’ personal information.
     “There is no question based on the evidence concerning the inherently personal nature of the images, the testimony of the victims who sent their images only to another person or select others, the victims’ generally shocked and horrified reaction to the display of those images on Bollaert’s website, and their attempts to get them removed, that the jury could conclude each of those victims reasonably expected his or her images to be private as to that person or persons to whom they were sent,” Judge Terry O’Rourke wrote for the three-judge panel.
     The judge later added: “the circumstantial evidence was sufficient for a jury to find Bollaert acquired and retained all of the victims’ personal identifying information with the intent to defraud. That is, Bollaert purposely set up UGotPosted.com so that it directed victims to an entirely separate website where they could remove the content for a fee; he named the websites differently and used different email addresses, suggesting he intended to conceal the fact the websites were operated by the same person and induce victims to believe they were making the payment to a different entity.”
     Finding that the website was “designed to solicit” unlawful content, O’Rourke held that “Bollaert’s actions were not neutral, but rather materially contributed to the illegality of the content and the privacy invasions suffered by the victims. In that way, he developed in part the content, taking him outside the scope of CDA immunity.”
     California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ spokeswoman Rachele Huennekens said the attorney general is “pleased” with the ruling.
     “Individuals who hide behind their computer and post intimate non-consensual images or videos online will be held accountable for their unlawful and cowardly acts,” Huennekens wrote.
     The ruling “reaffirms the seriousness of this crime and validates the justice delivered to the victims who suffered at the hands of this perpetrator,” Huennekens added.
     Huennekens noted that Harris was “the first in the nation to successfully prosecute the operator of a cyber-exploitation website when she secured Bollaert’s conviction in February 2015.”
     Bollaert’s attorney, Patrick Hennessey Jr., did not return a request for comment Thursday.

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