Internet payback: Scorned lovers choose to get revenge
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Chances are everyone has been through at least one bad breakup. But how do people respond when it happens? Do they move on? Or get even? Now a days more people are choosing payback because it's easier than ever. It's called online revenge.
Experts say revenge is a natural human reaction. It's playing out for all to see on the Internet. Scorned exes are hitting the web to strike back.
"They can without a whole lot of thought, with the stroke of a couple keys do things that would be much harder to do in person to get back at someone," said Kellie Johnson, an attorney with the Pima County Attorney's Office.
This is a problem that was brought to 9OYSs attention before our Backpage.com investigation even aired. It started with a phone call to the 9OYS newsroom. A caller told us she's a problem. She says her illicit photos have been splattered across websites, posted she says by an ex-boyfriend who continues to harass her. She was too scared to face our cameras for fear of more revenge, she asked 9OYS to investigate. 9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito took her concerns to the Pima County prosecutor's office.
"What can people do in that scenario?" asked Benito. Johnson replied, "Obviously the first thing they need to do is call police and let police investigate."
But it's not that simple. When someone posts illicit pictures of someone else, that person is liable. But online anonymity makes it easier to get away with it. Revenge websites help make it happen.
"We sleep easy because we're helping people get revenge in a legal and playful way," Dan Golding said.
Golding runs Get Revenge on Your Ex, a UK website that does the dirty work for you. They'll barrage your ex with texts, annoying phone calls, even designing a website meant to humiliate, and as 9OYS discovered it's all legal.
"Everything we do is offshore, from that point we're bullet proof we act anonymously for people," Golding said.
The Communications Decency Act makes it possible. Operators of Internet services are not liable for the content of third party uploaders. Take Cheaterville.com for example. It's a website where you can post profiles and pictures of anyone who's cheated on you, no proof required. Anyone, whether cheater or not, could end up online.
"It's challenging to make sure law takes into consideration every possible scenario," said State Rep. Ted Vogt. "At the pace technology changes, the law will always lag behind that."
But Vogt is trying to keep up. He helped beef up House Bill 2549, a law that takes effect in August. It criminalizes the use of digital devices to harass others. Before May of this year, the law could only punish telephone harassment. The bill helps says Vogt, but it's no magic bullet.
"It makes it very difficult," said Vogt. "There's an entire industry around anonymity and communications, and I'm sure it's challenging for investigators going after the right people."
As for Golding, he says his website isn't coming down anytime soon. The way he sees it, they're not the bad guys. Benito asked him, "Do you feel bad about this at all?" He replied, "We don't feel bad. You don't go looking for revenge if you've done nothing wrong or you've had no wrong done to you. They by and large deserve what they're getting."
Whether it's right or wrong is up for debate, but prosecutors say victims should continue to come forward. Every case is different, and they can't help if they never know about it.