23 women file class-action lawsuit against revenge porn site

The suit seeks to prosecute the owners of Texxxan.com and hosting company GoDaddy -- and end a despicable trend

Published January 22, 2013 9:57PM (EST)


In what is likely the first case of its kind, 23 women have joined a class-action lawsuit against the "revenge porn" website Texxxan.com.

Not sure what revenge porn is? Congratulations, you're a good person.

Revenge porn is what you get when jilted exes and one-time hookups submit photos and videos of their sexual exploits for public consumption. While some of the material on these sites has been stolen by strangers off of phones and computers, all of it has one big thing in common: The women in these photos and videos didn't consent to share them.

Hollie Toups, a 32-year-old resident of Beaumont, Texas, is one of those women. In addition to signing on to the lawsuit, she publicly came forward to discuss her experience with revenge porn in an effort to encourage other women to do the same.

As she told BetaBeat:

“I live in an extremely small town and the website was flooded with people that I knew,” Ms. Toups said. “Those of us on there go to the grocery store and everybody recognizes you. Not everybody says something, but you get a lot of like, ‘Hey, do I know you?’ or, ‘I recognize you from somewhere.’ But then you also get people that will just come out and say it.”

In addition to Texxxan.com, lawyers have also named Web hosting company GoDaddy.com in the suit:

“GoDaddy is profiting off of it,” said John S. Morgan, Ms. Toups’ lawyer. “The reality of it is at some level this issue of revenge porn has to become a public discussion and a legislative discussion and it raises issues of corporate responsibility. Why would an organization like GoDaddy want to give its name to this type of website?”

After discovering her photos on Texxxan.com, Toups contacted the site owner and asked him to remove them. “They replied and said they would be happy to remove the pictures for me if I would enter my credit card information,” she told BetaBeat. “I went from being depressed and embarrassed to being really pissed off.”

This kind of extortion is common with revenge porn sites, but Toups struggled to find a lawyer willing to represent her. After much searching, John S. Morgan, an attorney in Southeast Texas, agreed to help Toups build her case.

Many proprietors of revenge porn websites claim they are protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that websites are not liable for content submitted by users. Morgan argues that because these sites advertise their content as being posted without the subject's consent, they aren’t protected by this law.

But it isn't just the website that Morgan is after; he intends to sue all those who signed up for a subscription on Texxxan.com, paying a monthly fee to get access to more personal information of the women in the photos.

Toups is optimistic that justice will be served through the suit, but is also glad to be talking openly about a problem so many women face in secret:

“I’ve been trying to figure out why this happened,” Ms. Toups said. “Maybe it happened to me so I could help someone. Several of the girls that I’ve been in contact with have been suicidal and I feel like if I had reached them sooner they would not even have attempted that. I’m one of the older ones–most of them are younger–so I felt somebody has to start it. And I knew that once I did even the ones who were scared would end up coming out.”

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Consent Porn Pornography Sex Women's Rights