North Texas Daily

UNT alumnus fights revenge porn phenomenon

UNT alumnus fights revenge porn phenomenon

UNT alumnus fights revenge porn phenomenon
April 06
23:59 2015

Erica Wieting / Staff Writer

With the prevalance of social media and cloud networking, personal information is more widely accessible than ever.

In July of last year, Texas lawyer and UNT alumnus Jason Lee Van Dyke began a campaign against two sites where particularly private information can surface. The two sites, Pink Meth and Doxbin, are commonly known as “revenge porn” sites.

This is actually the second time Pink Meth has faced a lawsuit threatening to shut it down. In 2012 Van Dyke said the court took the site down, but it kept getting rehosted.

“We played a game of whack-a-mole for a while,” he said.  “Then [Pink Meth] transferred to Tor.”

Tor is the Internet’s largest anonymous web browser.  Its name is an acronym that stands for the network’s original name:  The Onion Router.  The Tor network, Van Dyke said, is designed specifically for illegal activity.

Tor is free to use and available to anyone, he said.

Computer science sophomore Patrick Watts said when using a browser like Tor to set up a website, one still has to have an understanding about basic HTML coding, web servers, and how the Tor network operates.

“Making these sort of websites usually takes a couple of people,” Watts said.

When sites are built through Tor, it is much more difficult to trace any Internet activity back to the original user, Watts said.  According to the Tor Project website, Tor redirects site information thousands of times to protect the creators’ IP addresses, which would usually lead investigators to the physical location of the computer the site was launched from.

Revenge porn sites are an especially destructive type of pornography, Watts said, because its questionable content is aimed at specific people. Sites like Pink Meth and Doxbin primarily operate through a process known as doxxing.

“Doxxing is when a hacker obtains personal information on a target and releases it to the public,” Watts said.  “Like nudes, social security numbers, affairs, etc.”

Many of these sites, Doxbin included, will even release specific home and work addresses.

Van Dyke said most of the time, people find their pictures and personal information posted on these sites as a result of a relationship that went sour.  He said most of the time the female is victimized and people are often unsympathetic.

“You don’t blame the victim in cases like this,” Van Dyke said.  “You wouldn’t blame a rape victim for dressing provocatively.”

It isn’t always an angry ex-boyfriend or girlfriend posting the pictures and information.  Sometimes the sites take matters into their own hands.

Van Dyke began his campaign against Pink Meth and Doxbin when a female UNT student hired him as a result of being doxxed by Pink Meth.  The website hacked into her private PhotoBucket account and posted her name, city and links to her social media profiles on its page.

Van Dyke referred to PhotoBucket’s security as lackadaisical at best, and said the lawsuit became ugly in a short amount of time.

Eventually, both Pink Meth and Doxbin were shut down as part of law enforcement relating to cases like this.  To the best of his knowledge, Van Dyke said neither site has resurfaced in the cyber world yet.

“Anyone who says they can [take photos down] is a liar,” Van Dyke said.

Connor Prewit, emerging media and communications senior at the University of Dallas, is studying the dangers of sexting for his capstone project.

Sexting, or “sex texting,” is when two individuals exchange sexual content through electronic devices.  It is most commonly used to refer to the exchange of nude or partially nude photographs via text message.

Prewit said he is studying the legal side of the matter. The act of sexting, when it occurs between two consenting adults over the age of 17, he said, is completely legal.

“Once you send the picture, it’s out there,” Prewit said.  “Just don’t do it.”

Texas previously had a law against revenge porn and made the activity a felony, punishable by six months to two years in jail or a $10,000 fine, Van Dyke said. The law also made it illegal to photograph someone in a bikini walking down the street.

“It was a poorly-written law,” Van Dyke said.  “That’s the biggest challenge they’re facing in Austin right now.”

Some lawyers support the rights of revenge porn sites under the First Amendment, Van Dyke said.  Watts said he thinks there should be a limit on what the government is able to censor, because too much censorship can affect regular Internet users.

“The government should mostly be censoring pirating sites and whatever other websites they feel the public should not see,” Watts said.

Van Dyke said it is patently absurd the First Amendment should protect such websites at all.

The recent influx of revenge porn sites has prompted action by many institutions.  Twitter has completely banned any form of revenge porn or doxxing.

“The biggest message that I want to send to students is that once something is on the Internet, there’s nothing I or anyone can do to get it off,” Van Dyke said.

Featured Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

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