An article about the website Anon-IB recently garnered national attention when dozens of male Marines posted nude photographs of their female colleagues. Anon-IB—short for Anonymous Image Board—is one of many “revenge porn” websites that encourage users to post explicit photos of their exes, without the exes’ consent.
Anon-IB receives 50,000 individual visitors each day and its page views can average 170,000, according to the New York Post. The site’s categories include “drunk/passed out,” “peeping toms” and “up-the-skirt” photos. Some material depicts molestation and rape, with many of the girls pictured below the age of 18. Users can post teenage girls’ pictures, as long as the tag does not contain their age, according to the New York Post.
Revenge porn epitomizes the failure of legislators and policymaking to catch up with the rapid progression of technology. Georgia resident Brandon Lee Gary, for example, had been convicted for taking up-the-skirt photos of women while they shopped. A judge threw out the ruling, however, after it was discovered how far behind the times Georgia’s invasion of privacy laws were, according CBS News. The law did not cover actions in public spaces, like stores.
Aware of this loophole, some states have created voyeurism statutes that make such behavior illegal. As of this year, legislation to prevent revenge porn has passed in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to FindLaw.
California Rep. Jackie Speier hopes to protect all 50 states with a bill that would be enforced at a federal level. Speier’s Intimate Privacy Protection Act of 2016 specifically targets revenge porn and explicit images taken without consent.
The bill would amend Chapter 88 of Title XVIII, which defines and prohibits recorded voyeurism. Created back in 2004, this title prohibits the filming or documenting of “a private area of the individual,” according to section 1801.
The addition of the Intimate Privacy Protection Act would specifically address distribution of those images and the lack of consent. It is a way that legislation could begin catching up to the ever-dwindling digital privacy of citizens in the modern era. The bill, however, is still being debated by the House of Representatives.
Numerous grassroots movements have recently started up in the hopes of shutting down revenge porn sites and raising awareness. Activist Alex Edwards, for instance, began a petition on Change.org that has gained over 9,000 supporters since it was started in 2012. Edwards is calling on the FBI to begin an investigation that combats Anon-IB and its distribution of child pornography.
Until legislation passes, these grassroots efforts appear to be the best recourse against revenge porn that the U.S. has.u
Lisa M. can’t walk around her hometown without wondering who has seen her naked.
The 28-year-old from Gardner, Mass., was only 17 when her then-boyfriend snapped a couple of topless photos of her when she wasn’t looking. She loved him, trusted him and had no idea he even owned a camera. Years later, the pictures would surface online and spread all over her tiny hometown.
“To see those online was just like a total betrayal of trust, and on top of that, there’s nothing you can do about it — it’s just there, and you can’t take it down, and you don’t know who’s seen it,” she said.
The pictures had been posted to the Web site “Anon-IB,” a k a Anonymous Image Board, one of the world’s main online promoters of revenge porn — intimate photos that are uploaded typically by a former sex partner and without the subject’s consent.
Anon-IB is where naked pictures of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence surfaced in 2014 and where dozens of male Marines posted illicit photos of female comrades earlier this year. And it’s the site where thousands of other women — including underage girls — are exploited daily for twisted reasons ranging from perversion to revenge to financial gain.
Nearly 40 US states have battled the odds to enact laws to combat revenge porn.
New York has yet to join them.
“There just simply isn’t the interest or passion about New Yorkers’ sexual privacy and dignity,’’ Brooklyn lawyer Carrie Goldberg lamented. “The majority of the country cares. New York doesn’t.”
Anon- IB at first appears to be a typical porn clearinghouse with the usual complement of categories: “lesbian,” “milf,” “ebony.” But a closer look reveals other headings, such as “drunk/passed out” and “peeping toms” — and features nude images of sleeping women and “upskirt” pictures of others taken in dressing rooms or bathrooms.
Some of the postings even appear to involve possible molestation and rape.
Recently, the top of the site boasted a collage of young women with their breasts exposed. They easily looked preteen, even though such a posting would be a crime.
There are links for each US state, as well as 22 countries, and site users can post requests for nude pictures of women — from specific towns, colleges and high schools.
They ask for certain graduating classes and often provide the names of women, even if it’s against the rules of the site.
Anon-IB has a special four-letter word for photos that are scored — “wins.’’
“Anyone got any wins of . . .” a typical post reads, followed by ellipses and then typically a high school and graduating class or a specific name from either.
The users often trade “wins,’’ offering photos they’ve found in exchange for the ones they’re seeking.
New York cybercrime expert Philip Rosenthal said such sites are able to operate in virtual anonymity because of the murky way they are set up.
“Think of it as a stage with 50 levels of curtains, and every time you draw back one curtain, you gotta go run around and search for the string to pull back the next curtain,” said Rosenthal, who has worked with everyone from the FBI to US Secret Service to root out cybercrime.
Kateri Gasper of the Queens District Attorney’s Computer Crimes Unit would tell The Post only that Anon-IB is owned by a company in Panama.
‘People I barely knew or people I thought were friends would come up to me and chat me up about my body and say things like, “I saw you naked.”‘
The warped Web site has proven to be a moneymaker. Anon-IB gets close to 50,000 unique visitors per day and nearly 170,000 page views daily, according to Alexa, an Amazon company that monitors Web traffic. That equates to an estimated $1,500 a day in advertising revenue, giving it an estimated site value of more than $700,000.
That revenue comes mostly from ExoClick — a Barcelona-based advertising company that hosts Anon-IB’s ads. They’ve been recognized as one of the fastest growing private companies in Europe by Inc. 5000 Europe and they won The Business of the Year award in 2016 from the European Business Awards.
But in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported they’re a frequent advertiser to illicit file-sharing Web sites that host pirated movies and TV shows. The Annenberg Innovation Lab at University of Southern California ranked it among the worst offenders of ad networks that display ads on illicit file-sharing sites. ExoClick did not respond to requests for comment.
Rosenthal believes Anon-IB is connected to high-level criminals with “deep pockets.” He said the law-enforcement agency that has the best chance at bringing down Anon-IB and other similar sites would be the FBI — but only “if they really wanted to,’’ and that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“If the director of the FBI’s picture showed up [on one of the sites], you bet they’d get shut down tomorrow,’’ he said.
An FBI spokesman said the agency “will decline comment.”
The victims’ tales can be heart-wrenching.
Imogen R. from Sheffield, England, was 16 when she decided to send a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend, who was in a band and traveled often.
She sent the photos to her beau and never thought much about it until five years later, when an old friend from high school called her out the blue and said he needed to talk with her.
“He said he’d been on [Anon-IB] and seen some naked pictures of me, and I felt really sick, and I was just in shock,” said Imogen, who is now 24 and living in London. “I . . . went straight on the Web site and saw these pictures, and I knew exactly when I took them . . . Straight away, I knew it was my ex-boyfriend.”
Soon, the photos were being sent to her friends and former classmates.