LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man was arrested on Tuesday on accusations he ran a “revenge porn” website, one that featured nude pictures of women often posted by jilted or angry ex-lovers, officials said.
The San Diego arrest, the latest action by the state to crack down on such websites, comes after California Governor Jerry Brown signed a first-in-the-nation law in October specifically targeting revenge porn.
The law defines revenge porn as the posting of private, explicit photos of other people on the Internet to humiliate them.
But authorities did not charge 27-year-old Kevin Bollaert under that law, because it is geared to those who post the incriminating pictures and not those who run websites that feature them, said Nicholas Pacilio, spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office.
Bollaert’s site, which is no longer operational, had featured over 10,000 sexually explicit photos, and he charged women up to $350 each to remove their photos, officials said. The site was not the largest revenge porn website, but it had photos of people from across the country, Pacilio said.
Bollaert was charged under a California identity theft law that prohibits using identifying information of a person without their permission, and under anti-extortion legislation, according to court documents.
Unlike many other revenge porn websites, Bollaert’s site had required users post the photo subject’s full name, location, age and a link to the person’s Facebook profile, the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement the site had turned the public humiliation and betrayal of people whose photos were posted “into a commodity.”
In all, Bollaert faces 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion and could be sent to prison for up to 22 years if convicted on all counts, officials said. He is being held in San Diego jail on $50,000 bail.
An attorney for Bollaert did not return calls.
An arrest warrant affidavit said that when California investigators visited Bollaert in September, he told them he had taken down the website and that while it had been fun to run at first, he regretted it.
“I feel bad about the whole thing, and like I just don’t want to do it anymore. I mean, I know a lot of people are getting screwed over ... Like, their lives are getting ruined,” Bollaert said, according to the affidavit.
He also told investigators he received 100 emails daily from people asking for photos of themselves to be removed, the document stated.
One woman whose photo was posted on the site by a former boyfriend told investigators she received emails, calls and lewd photos from people wanting to “hook up” and feared for her safety. Other women told investigators the photos were not posted to the site by an ex-lover but by someone else.
The phenomenon of revenge porn has become so widespread it was featured this year as a story line on popular HBO series “The Newsroom.”
While the California revenge porn law is the first to specifically target the phenomenon, New Jersey has an older law that allows prosecution of such behavior, but it was passed as a cyberbullying statute not specifically aimed at revenge porn.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky