Pornographic site Is Anyone Up? reinvents the art of blackmail

Type into a web browser and hundreds of pornographic images of young adult boys and girls will immediately fill your computer screen. The images may have been submitted by the very people whose private photos are now available for worldwide scrutiny, or they may have been submitted by a disgruntled former lover or by a random person who happened to come across the images. The website’s handlers make no distinction between the three.

Once the pornographic image is submitted through the website’s anonymous “submit” form, the website’s owners take a look at the picture and verify the subject’s identity by checking his or her Facebook page. If everything checks out, the picture is then prepped to be published as a post on the website.

The offending image will be sandwiched between a screen capture of the subject’s Facebook or Twitter profile, sometimes revealing a person’s full name, location, where the person attends school and other publicly available information. There is also a “reaction” picture picked by the site’s owners. The reaction picture is usually something offensive such as a moving .gif file which usually express’ disgust or amusement.

Relishing in the public humiliation of others, the posts often encourage negative comments and harassment. Posting the subject’s Facebook and Twitter profiles is an open invitation from the website for anyone to find the person and message, friend request or otherwise harass them.

As humiliating as the photos might be, some victims of the website choose not to pursue the removal of the pictures. This is especially true in the case of the many band members who find themselves on the website and see it as an opportunity for free exposure for their band.

A Los Angeles Times article, titled “Rockers, fully exposed on Is Anyone Up?” guitarist of the band Deception of a Ghost and victim of the website, Buddy Dameron, stated, “I think it can only help….People who haven’t heard of us have seen that. If you were talking about Taylor Swift, then yes, it would be a problem. But for a rock ‘n’ roll band? I don’t see it being an issue.”

For the rest who are not as worried about promoting their band’s latest single however, simply keeping the photos online might not seem like such a great option. Although the website claims to abide by take-down requests from the legitimate subject of an image, many argue that the gesture is not enough. With monthly page views in the millions, one nude picture posted on the website for only a few hours can spread quickly online. Anybody with a computer, cell phone or tablet can access the website and download the image.

Senior Noor Fatima doesn’t agree with the website’s ideology. Speaking of the format the website uses, Fatima said, “It’s immature of the company itself. It’s immature of the people that are involved in it.” When the subject of copyright laws came up, Fatima said, “I feel like you could sue them…what right do they have over the picture? They have no right over the picture.”

However, although many have tried to sue the website and its webmasters, none have managed to sustain any court orders against the website. According to Forbes magazine, this is because, “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act…protects site owners from legal liability for the things that their users post, and because most people don’t have copyrights on their XXX pics.” In a July 2011 interview with Forbes magazine, the website’s creator, Hunter Moore, said of naked photos, “Everyone is doing it. It’s no secret….I actually post myself now and then to show that I’m not a hypocrite.”

That argument did little to soothe Fatima however. “Not everyone feels comfortable exposing themselves to everyone like that. He [Moore] may feel like that, [but] there’s people that come from different cultures, different backgrounds, different perspectives, different experiences where they don’t feel sexually open to expose themselves like that. If they felt at some point like exposing themselves to like a boyfriend or they felt like that was the one for them or whatever and it just didn’t turn out well, I don’t think that it’s okay for them to…post it online. Absolutely not,” Fatima said.

Moore insists however, that he’s not running the website to ruin lives. Speaking of his promise to take down pictures of professionals who could be harshly affected by the posts, he stated to Forbes magazine, “If someone has a real job, like a school teacher or something, I don’t want to ruin their life….There’s a never-ending supply of photos anyway.”

However, senior Shaista Saleem sees a simple solution to websites like these. “To some extent, that is true — if you don’t want to expose yourself [online] like that, then don’t…[take the photo], because once it’s submitted…it’s there forever and there’s no way of getting it back and deleting it,” Saleem said.