One Woman's Crusade Against Revenge Porn

One of the most insidious aspects of revenge porn—the non-consensual erotica pioneered by the likes of Hunter Moore—is the fact that victims have typically had little legal recourse to stop porn websites from profiting off their most compromising images. But a new wave of revenge porn victims are speaking out and organizing. One of the most prominent is the woman behind the advocacy group End Revenge Porn. She's been anonymous until today, when she was profiled by BetaBeat and revealed herself to be 29-year-old Florida PhD student Holly Jacobs.

Jacobs' story is typical among revenge porn victims: she claims her ex spent years tormenting her by sending the nude photos and explicit videos she made for his private enjoyment to coworkers and friends, and posting them on revenge porn websites. It got to the point where she changed her name to try to escape her embarrassing Google results and quit a job as a teaching assistant after her employer learned of the pics. Now she's become the first person to file a criminal suit against someone for distributing revenge porn—whom she tells BetaBeat is her ex boyfriend Ryan Seay.

Not only that, she's sued a number of websites that distributed content, including their service providers, in civil court. This tactic was also used by a host of women who found themselves on the revenge porn site Texxxan.com. Going after the secondary distributors, rather than the asshole who first posted the stuff, is a sketchier prospect thanks to the expansive protections afforded to sites that host user-submitted content under Section 230 the Communications Decency Act.

But all this attention will help the push for anti-revenge porn laws like the one proposed in Jacobs' home state of Florida. As more people advocate for legal protection from revenge porn, you can expect some debate between anti-revenge porn activists and free speech crusaders who are skeptical of any government move to regulate content on user-generated sites. Even law professor Mary Anne Franks, a strong supporter of anti-revenge porn legislation, cautions that the Florida Law defines Revenge Porn so broadly it "could potentially include a photograph of someone standing next to a picture of Botticelli’s Venus.”

But Jacobs' story further supports the case for new laws specifically addressing revenge porn, which overwhelmingly hurts women while enriching terrible people like Hunter Moore. It should be easier for normal people to get their leaked photos taken down from porn sites than starting an advocacy group and spending thousands on legal fees.

“I hope that I’ll set an example and show this is how you overcome this," Jacobs told BetaBeat, "by coming forward.”