Revenge Porn Returns to the Dark Web

A notorious dark web revenge porn site was shut down, but an archive of material from it has reappeared.

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Jun 29 2015, 12:00pm

Image: 2bears/Shutterstock

The fight against "revenge porn"—the sharing of sexual photos or videos of someone online without their consent—has had some notable successes recently. This year England and Wales introduced new legislation to criminalise the practice, multiple sites have been shut down, and last week Google decided to remove revenge porn from from its search results when requested.

But revenge porn is more resilient on the dark web. Case in point: After one notorious dark web revenge porn site was shut down, an apparent archive of material from it lives on.

"Pink Meth," which was originally a site on the surface web before switching to the dark web, allowed people to submit revenge porn anonymously. Some posts included contact information and links to social media profiles of the victims. The site also had a section where victims were encouraged to write an account of how their images were likely obtained in order to get their pictures removed, and further embarrass themselves in the process.

The site gathered media attention when Texas-based lawyer Jason Lee Van Dyke filed a motion against Pink Meth on behalf of a client. Dyke also targeted Tor, the non-profit behind the anonymity network that facilitates hidden services.

Although that legal move did not result in Pink Meth being closed, the site was seized in November 2014 as part of Operation Onymous, a multi-agency law enforcement effort that resulted in the shutdown of over two dozen dark web sites.

Since then, revenge porn has been largely absent from the dark web. That is until recently, with the release of a photo archive apparently sourced from material hosted on the original Pink Meth. Images of 206 women are included.

Motherboard was unable to confirm whether this archive is representative of the content available on the original site. Many of the photos contain a PinkMeth.com watermark.

The Pink Meth Archive is just one section available on a dark web site called "The Porn Network," which also includes images from celebrities' iCloud accounts that surfaced on 4chan last year. The administrator of another pornography site hosted by the network did not respond to a request for comment.

Because the location of the servers running this site are hidden, law enforcement would have a hard time identifying the company hosting it to request that the site be shut down.

On the normal web, administrators of revenge porn sites have been caught and prosecuted. Kevin Bollaert, who ran ugotposted.com, was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison, and Hunter Moore, who ran isanyoneup.com, pleaded guilty to hacking charges this year. But, it's notoriously difficult to prosecute people who carry out revenge porn, because there are few laws around it. Moore, for instance, was not charged specifically for revenge porn.

And busting the people behind dark web revenge porn sites is harder. Although the sites may eventually be shut down, if the operators have taken adequate precautions, they can attempt to evade identification. "Olaudah Equiano," the alias by which the owner of Pink Meth went by, is, as far as we know, still free.