When TV presenter and author Charlotte Laws battled "the most hated man on the Internet," she was bombarded with computer viruses and death threats. A stalker even appeared at her home.
For the past eight years, Dr. Charlotte Laws has fought nonconsensual pornography, or "revenge porn," as it is better known. She has counseled over 500 victims, lobbied legislators, and penned two bestselling memoirs about her work and life: Rebel in High Heels and Undercover Debutante. Laws's introduction to this cause began with a personal and grueling battle against Hunter Moore, who operated a popular revenge porn website. He called himself a "professional life ruiner" and delighted in humiliating and bullying victims.
Dr. Laws is the reason Moore eventually went to prison. She is the reason his website came down. And she is a big part of why there are 46 states with laws against revenge pron.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to sit down with her for a Q&A.
YMB: Your 25-year-old daughter took a topless picture of herself in the privacy of her room with no intention of sharing it. Then she was hacked and the photo appeared on Hunter Moore's website. What was your reaction when you learned about this?
CL: I'd never heard of revenge porn prior to this incident. My daughter, Kayla, phoned me when she learned her topless photo was online. She was distraught and unsure what to do. Kayla reacted like most revenge porn victims: she wanted to disappear, to crawl inside a hole and shut out the world. She was in tears. It is very difficult for victims to take action; they feel helpless. I didn't blame my daughter for taking the photo. It was her right to take a photo of herself. It was not her fault that some lowlife hacked into her email and stole the content.
I am a matter-of-fact person so my brain immediately began churning about what measures to take. I did online searches and learned as much as possible about Hunter Moore and revenge porn. I phoned a number of attorneys, but they had no advice because this was a "new thing." I knew I would have to do my own investigation. I would have to begin from scratch and come up with the best measures to take. There was no one to turn to. It was up to me.
YMB: What do you think of this trend and why are victims mostly women?
CL: The victims are primarily female because revenge porn is not about nudity. It is about the hatred of women. It is about taunting and embarrassing victims in an attempt to ruin their lives; sometimes the goal is to drive them to suicide. Victims lose economic and employment opportunities; they can lose relationships. Revenge porn undermines female participation in society. It drives women away from their computers. It makes them fear the online world, and it effectively silences them. It leads to less speech, not more. It fuels a situation in which the loudest and nastiest voices are heard, and these voices are usually male.
There is a misogynistic sub-culture online, comprised of revenge porn trolls. Hunter Moore situated himself as a leader of this group, and he had thousands of devoted minions. He was often called the "kingpin of revenge porn" and the "most hated man on the Internet." He used Charles Mansiontype language, describing himself as "the father" and calling his followers "children." Some of his most loyal followers said they would kill for him. Moore was the moral equivalent of a bedbug infestation. Revenge porn is a hate-filled hobby. To this day, these virtual mobs gather on the internet and attack unsuspecting victims. The attackers tend to be anonymous and unidentifiable. They hide behind avatars and fake user names; they think there will be no repercussions for their actions.