A new website allows completely anonymous postings of pictures and personal information – only woman so far but there’s no prohibition against listing men – without any verification or permission to make implications about the subject. The inference on this so-called “slut shaming” site, Potential Prostitutes (I am not going to link to them here), is that the women pictured are prostitutes. No proof needed, just anonymous accusations. Oh, but you can get your picture removed… if you pay the website $100.
There is a word for what the website is doing: blackmail, apparently legally thanks to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (there’s some irony for you). This is the law that absolves sites like Facebook and Twitter of responsibility for anything considered “indecent” that their members post, as long as they are of legal age. The law protects the websites, placing responsibility on the poster.
But the posters on this website do not need to give any of their own personal information in order to submit pictures and/or personal information about someone else. This anonymity allows people to smear others with impunity. A comparable site, IsAnyoneUp, has been operating in a similar way, though they do not require a fee to remove embarrassing photos from their website. The site brings in about $13,000 a month for the proprietor.
Potential Prostitutes is nothing more than a revenge-enabler, allowing and indeed subsidizing libel and ruining lives. Imagine if your name and picture were to appear on their pages. If someone was mad at you, all they would have to do is send in your picture and information and you’re on the hook, so to speak. Until you paid up, you would be branded as a whore. Even if you do pay, because of the way search engines work, it may take weeks, months or even years for you to be clear.
A lawyer who deals with Internet cases – and represented 2 clients whose photos appeared on IsAnyoneUp – says that if you took the photo, you own the copyright. Cold comfort for anyone who has had their pictures show up on a website with libelous connotations. But it does allow you to issue a DMCA notice to search engines, using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to claim your copyright. The search engines will have to remove all links to your picture. This wont’ make the picture disappear but it will make it harder to find.
Chase Hoffberger, who wrote about the site on Daily Dot, has some advice: “… good luck out there. And don’t cross anybody who’s ever called you a ho.”
Update: As of 10:00 pm Pacific time 12/31/12 the site Potential Prostitutes is down. Also, a search for IsAnyoneUp redirects to Bullyville so that site may also be gone.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…