First Case Filed Under NYC's New Revenge Porn Law

An ex-boyfriend and other Tumblr users shared intimate photos of a CUNY associate professor. Now, she is fighting back using New York’s recently passed revenge porn legislation, and is putting much of the blame on Tumblr.

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Apr 13 2018, 8:44pm

Image: Shutterstock

On Friday, in what appears to be the first related case after New York City’s recently passed revenge porn legislation, lawyers filed a complaint against users of Tumblr for allegedly sharing non-consensual, intimate images on the massive blogging platform.

The news not only shows what sort of recourse New Yorkers may be able to follow if they fall victim to revenge porn, but also highlights the role of technology companies in curbing the spread of offending material.

“Right now it can take days, weeks, or longer for Tumblr to get around to removing the material I’ve reported. Tumblr needs to stop feigning ignorance and start taking proactive steps to remove offending content and delete accounts that upload it,” Dr. Spring Chenoa Cooper, associate professor at the City University of New York (CUNY), and the Plaintiff in the case, told Motherboard in an email.

As of mid-February, it became a misdemeanor offense in New York City to share intimate photos without consent, with perpetrators potentially facing one year in jail or a $1,000 fine, Gizmodo reported at the time.

Daniel Szalkiewicz & Associates, which is representing Dr. Cooper, said in a statement “The new legislation provides victims with a much-needed avenue for seeking an injunction to have the material removed from the internet, plus compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees. This is immensely empowering for victims of revenge porn, many of whom do not have the financial resources to hire an attorney to have the offending material removed. Hopefully it also means that individuals considering uploading these images or videos will think again.”

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According to the complaint, Dr. Cooper and Ryan Broems, one of the defendants, dated from December 2016 until November 2017. Broems, the complaint claims, already watched so-called revenge pornography during the relationship. After they broke up, Dr. Cooper received a message from an account called Calidaddy26, which read “I know who you are, be my personal webslut, or I’ll post you on my slut exposing blog.” The day after, the account uploaded onto their Tumblr page intimate images of Dr. Cooper, that only Broems possessed, the complaint continues. The account also uploaded a screenshot of Dr. Cooper’s OkCupid dating site profile.

In the end, and after several waves of Tumblr posts targeting her, the complaint says 11 intimate images and 6 videos were shared.

The complaint also targets 100 John Does as well—these being unknown persons who “have shared and disseminated Plaintiff’s images and videos on Tumblr accounts,” the complaint reads.

"Right now it can take days, weeks, or longer for Tumblr to get around to removing the material I’ve reported."

Social media companies and tech platforms are increasingly having to reckon with revenge porn. The material recently spread to Discord, as well as Slack. Facebook has introduced new pilot measures in order to detect images before they can be shared widely.

Motherboard also found that Tumblr has a massive problem with so-called creepshots: close-up, revealing photos of women typically taken in public without their consent.

A Tumblr spokesperson told Motherboard in an email "Tumblr is committed to protecting the safety and rights of our users and we maintain and enforce our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. To help do this Tumblr provides multiple ways for users to report violations of our Community Guidelines, including via links provided in our Community Guidelines Help Pages and FAQs as well as the ability to directly flag the content within the product. Each report received is analyzed and then actioned as appropriate under our policies and procedures. Tumblr’s Community Guidelines explicitly prohibit non-consensual pornography and the posting of others’ personally identifying or confidential information."