When we first talked with East Texas attorney John Morgan a week after he filed his lawsuit targeting Texas revenge porn, the number of women signed on to say they were victimized had nearly doubled.
Morgan is suing on behalf of 32-year-old Hollie Toups of Beaumont and some 30 other women whose vindictive exes uploaded their nude photos to the revenge porn website Texxxan.com, complete with Facebook profiles to identify the women. Morgan claims some of the women weren't even aware the photos were taken — such as secret shower shots.
In an interview last week, Morgan told the Current these women come from Louisiana all the way down to Austin and Houston. In the coming months Morgan expects countless more to join the class-action lawsuit, which claims invasion of privacy and mental anguish. Morgan now joins a growing movement of attorneys trying to hunt down and eradicate the revenge porn industry. His lawsuit names website hosting company GoDaddy.com, “all subscribing members” to Texxxan.com, and the site's administrators as defendants.
But the site's administrators, who Morgan calls “punks” and “scum of the lowest order” remain unknown. The name and address registered with the site are fake. Still, last week Morgan got a taunting email from a “James Smith” purporting to be Texxxan.com's administrator, in which he said, “I think that this is a great game and I am certain that those girls deserved it 110%.”
“James,” in a series of emails with the Current this weekend, refused to talk over the phone or tell us who/where he is — he claims he's somewhere overseas and says, “[G]ood luck in trying to get service of process. Good luck in trying to survive summary judgment. And good luck in trying to collect any judgment.”
The exchange does, however, offer some insight into the minds behind the revenge porn game.
“I would ask you for a moment to step back, close your eyes, and pretend that instead of talking about a website, we substitute the term 'bathroom wall' instead,” James wrote. “What websites like Texxxan do is no different than writings on the bathroom wall from our childhood, albeit writ large on a World Wide scale.”
Revenge porn has become a legal grey area. In the past, victims have sued similar websites over copyright infringement, privacy, and even laws requiring pornographers keep written records documenting age to ensure no minors are pictured. But proprietors of revenge porn websites like Texxxan.com fall under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides that websites aren't liable for user-submitted content. It's unclear how a suit like Morgan's might shake out in the courts.
Citing the CDA, James told us, “In my opinion this lawsuit is hilarious and a waste of time.” He insisted lawyers like Morgan actually make life harder for these women, engaging them in widely-publicized legal disputes. “I feel badly for those girls who will now be forever more dragged in the mud. Every time a prospective employer Googles their name, they will see this lawsuit and see their pictures. Every time. Forever.”
But consider how James encapsulates the purpose of Texxxan.com: “It should be obvious! Guys and girls want to get revenge on those whom they believe have wronged them. And guys like me want to make money off of their broken relationships! Why do you think that sites like TheDirty.com are so wildly successful? People like to talk trash about one another. This is America, after all. We have a God-given right to defame one another!!! Don't we?”
He went further: “ I could care less about those girls. Do they deserve it? Absolutely, and judging by the comments to your articles, your readers seem to think so, too. If you are stupid enough to take naked pictures and send them to some boy (or girl), then that is your problem. … You deserve anything that happens to you when you do something as dumb as that.”
One revenge porn victim has started the website endrevengeporn.com, an online hub for victims to meet, share stories, and take action.