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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Man Arrested In Connection With Revenge Porn Website

California Attorney General Kamala Harris
J. Scott Applewhite
California Attorney General Kamala Harris
What's Happening Now With San Diego Man's Arrest For Revenge Porn Website
San Diego Man Arrested In Connection With Revenge Porn Website
GuestsSgt. Mark Varnau, San Diego County Sheriffs Department Cyber Crimes David Peters, family therapist Charlotte Laws, mother of victim

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story on Midday Edition today, we all know that when relationships and breakup things can get nasty. There is nasty and that there is illegal. One despicable form of vengeance is called revenge part, where good and intimate photographs are posted online for the world seat in a San Diego man has been arrested with this with allegedly running in the revenge porn website. Actually defining and prosecuting for this may be more difficult than expected. Would like to introduce my guest search Mark Varnau and David Peters. The San Diego man arrested is believed to run a revenge porn website, tell us what the site is like, what kind of information is posted with these pictures? MARK VARNAU: There many sites like this where people can send in graphic images of adults and have those things posted, what is unique about the site is in addition to the images he was allowing the posting of contact information, what we call personal identifying intimate information and links to these victims Facebook accounts and other online social media, that creates a very unsafe and unsavory position for these victims to be a period. This case is not under the current statute, the charge charges brought in the investigation are under the identity theft statutes and fraud statutes and not under current law. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why are they not under current law? MARK VARNAU: These were committed before the enactment of the law and pursuant cannot go back in charge them under the statute. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is revenge porn defined legally? MARK VARNAU: A lot of the new statute says that any person with the intent to cause emotional harm or distress and publishes adult images of another person without consent, that includes personal identifying information is a violation of the law. It is a misdemeanor in California and is a felony and the offenses are often adjudicated very quickly in court. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Something intent is the devil in the details spirit how do you prove that someone did this for a certain reason? MARK VARNAU: Intent can be demonstrated in a number of ways. Someone clearly articulates that they are going to post the images up because they hate someone, intent is shown and that is issued. If that is not present that we have to look for other medication between parties such as emails or messages or some kind of breakup in the relationship that cause them to have some discord toward each other and we will look through those issues to try to identify, but it's a new statute and we will be looking forward to seeing what cases will come forward from it and what those prosecutions will on up with. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Think the whole issue of sending and receiving intimate photos seems odd to many people, why is this popular? MARK VARNAU: It would send on to those who have never considered such a thing. DAVID PETERS: That if you think through time in the past people could only share intimacy and flirtation in person or through letter, and with the telephone people have been able to flirt and share intimate fantasies by telephone and we have heard of telephone sex that people can have with the advent of the Internet to email and people are writing and teasing and thirty with each other, it's another way of sharing in intimacy that people may not be aware that this is permanent but with the advent of the digital camera, people have changed tremendously. Once you know that you can take Have a captive your camera and tell it on to your own computer, there is an assumption of privacy at risk becomes greater. It's so cheap and young people are doing this every day. If you have someone with bad character, suddenly your risk of being heavier privacy risks. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do people realize how harmful this could be? DAVID PETERS: Sure that some of them are merely impulsive and not thinking of compulsive of consequence. I can think of many individuals who do something in the heat of anger or jealousy or bitterness. Some are people who may have: tension who think carelessly callously into the can offer someone else's well-being, they will know that they're going to hurt someone terribly in the two of purposefully. There are the unfortunate factors that begin always though the character of the person we're dating your Peer this is not a small sector of society, this is a lot of young people and all ages. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me bring another guest into our conversation. Charlotte is a mother of a victim of revenge porn. Welcome to the program. You got into this issue because your daughter's nude photos were posted of her on the Internet. She took her photos and they were unhurt computer was hacked, what was I to this have on her? CHARLOTTE LAWS: I called the cyber rate because she was very withdrawn and felt like she was violated. It was a very difficult situation for our family and difficult to get the picture down because the website operator refused to remove it and even though my daughter on the copyrights and she took it herself, the operator refused the ticket request. I used to be a private message or and I used to be a private investigator and I did some research and talk to people around the country and investigated the website and I constituted contacted people who said that some people's pictures were actually Photoshopped to look like nude pictures. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know your family was involved in this incident, how big of a problem would you say this is? CHARLOTTE LAWS: There are thousands of victims all over the world and it is difficult now that because most victims don't want their names associated with new pictures so they are reluctant to come forward, but I am encouraged that law enforcement is taking this seriously and I fight started a FBI investigation of the website and am very happy that this arrest was made in regards to the extortion of the San Diego case and I'm also encouraged that New Jersey has a law and so does California laws because currently because it only protects about 10 to 20% of victims. The perpetrator has to have intent to cause severe emotional distress, but we do have a amendment that we are proposing in about a week had they will be enunciated in Fresno. I hope it passes and will protect 100% of victims in California. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you for joining us. Is there any way to shut down the websites that post these pictures? MARK VARNAU: It is difficult. But depends on where it is located and many service the servers are posed around the state in the country and it's a complex web the way that the Internet is put together, and civil solutions are often sought by Vic to shut down a website or to get in operator to shut the site down, and many times that is what it takes, otherwise we have to get some believe from a court to have them shut those things down and began there are real links of effort to locate these sites and these individuals and many times we find fake names used and aliases and corporations and it's a real hunt to try to find police behind it and who is responsible for it and it is so prevalent in the San Diego case there are over 10,000 images and there is no enhancement for 10,000 victims there. In this case the defendant also had a site to clear your reputation and a money generating part of that case also where he was in control of the site to accept these images and then also charging to remove said images from the site, so it has been a software developer who has entered Internet security software and then releases the virus of it off seal offers you the software at a cost, and there is up taking an affront there. He is gaining getting the entire set system is dating the entire system. It takes a lot of load time. The cyber age is moving faster than the locking keep pace pace. This law is a good start but like the color said it is weak and it is giving us the ability tool, for people knowingly operating these sites and get engaging these actions, but it does not have the teeth that we need. DAVID PETERS: And Charlotte is right how this is cyber rape. Public humiliation is one of the most difficult things that you can do to someone. This can lead to long-term shame and humiliation that can change a life. Especially for young people made fun of at school are picked on. If other people jump on the bandwagon and change someone's social status, this can be damaging. To call it cyber rape is exactly accurate. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Considering the prevalence of how devastating it can be should this be a subject that parents and communities pick up and let them young people know that this is not a good idea? DAVID PETERS: If we rely on the law to take care of this after the fact we will be behind the ball on the the time, this these to be a topic in every classroom, cyber security and how to be called cautious in the digital age, digital safety and how to protect yourself, how to know not to take risks and also to create a social ethic that start strongly shames perpetrators of this and insert insert certain circles we know we can publicly humiliate someone and anti-bullying campaigns have been successful in deterring bullying on campuses, we need the same thing for this and we need a public discussion about this and in the schools and cities just a normal discourse on the radio to establish that this is completely unacceptable to release images of someone without consent or trust and reraise consciousness of people here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see you nodding, is that something police would like to get involved in in education campaign? MARK VARNAU: We are completely behind on educating beyond the Halbert hazards because we see it at the adult level and at the juvenile level and even young children level load we have online predators who are able to reach out and contact a ten-year-old and get them to send the images across a mobile device device, it's frightening how easy it is for these crimes to be committed and four suspects to be anonymous. It does take a shift and we have to have parents involved and have to know what your kids are doing online and you have to understand when you give them a smart phone you're giving them an entire Internet connected computer that brings the entire world to their device. Add a camera to that and there we have all hold the level of problems and it is a maturity level had especially with young children who do not understand the consequences of their actions. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm out of time. I would like to thank you both.

A San Diego man was arrested Tuesday on charges related to operating a revenge porn website. It's the first bust of its kind since California criminalized revenge porn earlier this year.

San Diego Man Arrested In Connection With Revenge Porn Website
A San Diego man was arrested Tuesday on charges related to operating a revenge porn website. It's the first bust of its kind since California criminalized revenge porn earlier this year.

Kevin Bollaert, 27, allegedly owned and operated ugotposted.com, one of the most notorious examples of revenge porn. It allowed users — often vindictive ex-boyfriends — to anonymously upload nude photos of women without their consent.

The site connected photos with identifying information about the women pictured, including their names, ages and Facebook profiles. Victims reported being harassed and intimidated by the site's visitors.

To get these photos scrubbed from the web, victims had to pay up to $350 through another website allegedly owned and operated by Bollaert. The San Diego resident is charged with conspiracy, extortion and more than two dozen counts of identity theft. He's currently being held on $50,000 bail.

In a statement regarding the arrest, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said, "Online predators that profit from the extortion of private photos will be investigated and prosecuted for this reprehensible and illegal internet activity." California became the first state to pass legislation directly outlawing revenge porn in October.

In the arrest report filed by California Department of Justice special agent Brian Cardwell, Bollaert is quoted as saying, "I know a lot of people are getting screwed over like on the site. Like their lives are getting ruined."

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