Breitbart Tech recently had the opportunity to speak to attorney Daniel Szalkiewicz, who specializes in defamation and Internet privacy cases, most notably those concerning revenge porn and sextortion.
In March, Szalkiewicz made the news after accusing micro-blogging site Tumblr of ignoring removal requests for a revenge porn video featuring a seventeen-year-old girl.
“The service providers turn around and say ‘yes we removed the images’, but what they don’t do is remove the accounts,” explained Szalkiewicz in an interview with Breitbart Tech. “Let’s say someone created a fake Facebook account using my name, and they put my naked photographs up there. I report the naked photographs to Facebook, Facebook will take down the photographs, but they leave the fake account with my name up there.”
“So that’s almost as damaging, obviously, because they allowed somebody to make a fake account about you,” he continued. “Then they make you jump through additional hoops, including sending them a copy of your driver license.”
“Facebook is very difficult as well because they don’t provide you with a direct line of communication like Google Legal does,” Szalkiewicz said. “They make you sign on to the service, and then they make you report one of three things. If you’ve ever actually looked through the process, it’s very complicated and difficult.”
In May, The Guardian reported that in the month of January alone, “Facebook had to disable more than 14,000 accounts related to these types of sexual abuse – and 33 of the cases reviewed involved children.”
Szalkiewicz explained to Breitbart Tech that intimate pictures shared without permission online can often go undetected by the victims, only to receive a large amount of attention from strangers on the Internet without the victim initially realizing why.
“What you find is that clients obviously don’t look at these websites; they don’t know whether somebody puts their photograph up online,” he proclaimed. “The way they find out is suddenly their inboxes are flooded with Facebook friend requests, flooded with Instagram requests, saying ‘we saw your photograph, do you want to be friends?’ And obviously a lot of perverts are requesting a lot of additional information from them, and trying to essentially hit on them.”
Though nearly every website has policies against sharing intimate pictures without permission, and posting other people’s private information such as addresses and phone numbers, Szalkiewicz claims social networks often make the removal process extremely difficult for him.
“I think the lack of Tumblr’s responsiveness is probably one of the worst, they see accounts that they should know, that a reasonable person would know has these stolen photographs online, and they allow the harm to continue,” he declared. “Facebook will take something down if you report it, but again the problem with Facebook is finding a way to report it. I think it’s absurd that they try to make you log onto their services first in order to report an account.”
When Breitbart Tech decided to investigate Szalkiewicz’s claims in March, we discovered numerous Tumblr accounts that not only posted revenge orn, but also sought to find the real life profiles and identities of those featured.
“Please help, [REDACTED] needs full exposure. Facebook, all info. Ill give all info i have to help u get and post. Can we please have [REDACTED] fully exposed?” posted one user on a set of Tumblr revenge porn pictures that was found after a quick search. “[REDACTED] needs exposure. She’s a total cum slut. Let’s make her viral so she can become the porn star she was meant to be.”
“Find her facebook? Social media?” the post continued. “Ill give any and all info to help.”
Breitbart Tech also found numerous accounts that appeared to exclusively deal in revenge porn, most of which contained posts that had been up for weeks.
Facebook has attempted to combat the problem, announcing an anti-revenge porn feature in April that will allegedly be able to detect previously-flagged malicious images and stop users from posting them. Szalkiewicz claims it’s not enough, explaining that these algorithms have been gamed in the past during cases.
“I think they could be more cooperative both with authorities and civil attorneys,” Szalkiewicz said when asked how social networks could improve. “Because they view themselves as the guardians of the First Amendment, I know they make authorities jump through a load of hoops as well in order to try and figure out who these people are.”
“Most of these companies require at least 21 days notice to the user in order to have them come in and quash any subpoenas we try to serve, so there’s a 21 delay to begin with, and that’s assuming they receive it,” he concluded. “So it will take my client 30 to 45 days to even begin the process of figuring out who’s doing this.”