Breakup Advice: Clear The Hard Drive

Yesterday’s post dealt with Manti Teo’s troubles with an imaginary girlfriend. Today’s post deals with trouble from real exes.

The latest in the “incredibly bad breakups” column is the recent trend of so-called “revenge porn” Websites. These are sites where exes post nude pictures of their former lovers, including other personal information like their real name and hometown, for the world to see. For a long time, the victims had little recourse, since most Web sites ignored their requests to remove the content.

But the fight has since moved to the courtroom. Last week, seventeen female victims joined together to sue “revenge porn” site for violating their privacy rights under Texas state law.

The key question is whether revenge porn sites are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects web sites from liability for user-submitted content. YouTube and Yelp have relied on Section 230 to defend against privacy and defamation claims. But so far, no court has decided how much of Section 230 will protect “revenge porn.”

In an interesting twist, the lawsuit also names GoDaddy, arguing the hosting provider has some culpability for profiting off TeXXXan’s business. But even if the “revenge porn” site isn’t protected by Section 230, GoDaddy, which is merely the host for the site, and thus one more step removed from the content, certainly is. And that could cause trouble for the plaintiffs.

By naming GoDaddy, the plaintiffs risk having to pay its legal fees under Texas’ anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law. Anti-SLAPP laws are designed to protect free speech from meritless lawsuits. In this case, this risk is admittedly low since the speech at issue – the women’s nude photos and personal information — probably falls short of a “matter of public concern.” But we’ll see.

And of course, the lawyer in me is compelled to say delete those incriminating photos long before you pull the plug on the relationship. While the dad in me is compelled to say don’t take the photos in the first place!