revenge porn

Police Have Seized Revenge Porn Site Anon-IB

"Cybercrime teams from the Dutch police have seized the Anon-IB forum in an ongoing investigation concerning criminal offenses."

ByMatthew GaultandJoseph Cox

Image: Shutterstock

Law enforcement have seized Anon-IB, possibly the most infamous site focused on revenge porn—explicit or intimate images of people shared without their consent. Although it’s unclear whether Anon-IB members will make a replacement site, the seizure is still a significant blow against people who share revenge porn.

When connecting to an established Anon-IB domain on Wednesday, the site redirected to an image hosted on the official website of Politie, the Dutch police force. “Cybercrime teams from the Dutch police have seized the Anon-IB forum in an ongoing investigation concerning criminal offenses,” read the new site. “More information concerning this investigation will be made available on April 26, 2018.” Later Wednesday, the site had been taken down entirely, and on Thursday a Politie spokesperson confirmed the agency had seized Anon-IB.

The spokesperson added that the operation was solely from Dutch authorities, and that Politie was able to shut down Anon-IB as its servers were located in the Netherlands. Authorities have not yet arrested any Anon-IB administrators, but the spokesperson said Politie has apprehended several Dutch users of the site. Politie is focusing on targeting users who have "actively posted and distributed illegal content on the site," the spokesperson added.

An administrator of Anon-IB did not respond to a request for comment, but an email sent after the seizure, and shown to Motherboard, indicates the administrator still has internet access.

A screengrab of the redirected page.

People who have been affected by revenge porn quickly hailed the Anon-IB seizure.

“We at BADASS, are so thrilled to see that a law enforcement agency has heard our pleas, and has finally done something against this website,” Katelyn Bowden, creator of anti-revenge porn campaign group BADASS, and who has had her images shared on Anon-IB, told Motherboard in an email. “Anon-IB was a cancer on the internet, and needed to be removed. We are immeasurably grateful to the Dutch police and all parties who had a hand in getting anonIB shut down,”

More than any other country, the Netherlands aggressively pursues prosecution of revenge porn. In 2015, it won a lawsuit against Facebook to learn the identity of a man who’d shared a nude video of his ex. There’s even a Dutch startup, Leakserv, that helps people track and remove revenge porn.

For years, Anon-IB has acted as the epicentre of revenge porn, with sections dedicated to different countries and states, and often threads focused on particular schools or universities. Many of the site’s users try to trade or obtain so-called ‘wins’—nude or explicit images of women—and post them onto Anon-IB.

Recently, The Daily Beast found that IP addresses linked to a slew of US government computers and institutions were connected to posts on Anon-IB. The site was one of the popular dumping grounds for pics during the Marines United Scandal.

In March 2017, news broke of a 30,000 strong Facebook group called Marines United where servicemen traded nude pictures of wives and soldiers. Facebook took down the group and the US Marine Corps began charging individual Marines, but Anon-IB remained active until today.

Other members of BADASS celebrated the apparent Anon-IB seizure.“What a wonderful thing to wake up to! I would say that it feels like I can breathe easier and have one less thing on my mind!” Rachel, a BADASS member told Motherboard.

But Rachel, who asked that only her first name be used for privacy reasons, emphasised this doesn’t solve the issue of revenge porn more generally. “But as all moves/changes with Anon-IB, it makes me wonder what the next move is so that I/we can try and stay ahead of them,” she said. “It’s obviously something we’ve been striving towards and hoping for so it feels good to know that, even if it is temporary, those are still crucial hours that victims are not being viewed or traded on that platform.”

Revenge porn communities have already moved from Anon-IB over to other sites such as gaming-focused chat platform Discord or work communication service Slack. The shuttering of Anon-IB is a victory, but the fight against revenge porn is far from over.

Update: This piece has been updated to include more information from a Politie spokesperson.

Additional reporting by Max Hoppenstedt.