The Internet gives the very worst people among us the power to easily spread their awfulness around. We now hear regularly from and about people who 20 years ago would have been sitting alone, unknown, in dank apartments, surrounded by empty Funyons bags, watching pro wrestling and wondering why they were so miserable. Now we hear about them regularly. Every day brings a new example -- every moment, if you include comments sections.
IsAnybodyDown posts revealing pictures, mostly of women, without their consent, along with their full names and identifying information like phone numbers and Facebook snapshots. If they want to get off the site, victims are directed to a takedown "service" that costs $250.
It seems clear that the "takedown lawyer" employed by Brittain isn't actually a real person, but Brittain himself.
What gives this story a particularly pathetic tinge is that Brittain is merely aping the actions of Hunter Moore, the sociopathic proprietor of now defunct "revenge porn" site, IsAnyBodyUp? He got pilloried on national TV by Anderson Cooper, whereupon multitudes of emotionally stunted people started posting child porn and other nasty stuff on his site. He shut it down, though he still posts submitted pictures on a Tumblr, which he promotes via Twitter. Apparently, many women, to whom Moore regularly refers as "bitches" send him pictures of themselves, and he has legions of fans, both female and male.
Brittain at least has been innovative. He has married Moore's concept -- allowing cretins to take "revenge" on people (usually ex-lovers, usually female) by posting embarrassing pictures of them along with their personal information -- to the concept employed by sites like Mugshots.com. There, people with arrest records who don't want their mugshots posted on the Internet must fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars. It's pure extortion, of course, but it's got some legal cover. Mugshots.com uses what is, after all, public information. And "revenge porn" sites MAY have cover from the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects site owners from legal liability for content submitted by users.
Not that it's so clear-cut. Moore has loudly bragged about how he helps "stalkers" pursue their hobby. That could be interpreted as criminal intent. In fact, he says all kinds of stupid stuff in public (usually disavowing it later) because he's an attention-seeking narcissist, and it's likely that his own narcissism will ultimately do him in, one way or another.
Brittain seems to suffer from some of the same psychological maladies. Ars notes that many of the pictures posted on his site are owned by the victims, so they could file a copyright claim. That, however, involves registering the copyrights, which can take months. In the meantime, lives are ruined. At this writing, his site features pictures of a woman in Indiana. In one, she is splayed nude across a bed. A screenshot of her Facebook profile is included, bearing her name and town. What is left out is her cover photo, which on her still-live Facebook page apparently depicts her small children.
"I call it entertainment," Brittain told a Denver TV station (he lives in Colorado Springs). "We don't want anyone shamed or hurt, we just want the pictures there for entertainment purposes and business. I would say our business goal is to become big and profitable."
Money, though, is clearly only part of the story here. Brittain's Facebook page -- which appears to be legit -- sheds some more light on how a person could end up the way he has at such a young age (at 28, he's hardly a troubled teen, except emotionally). In the wake of the publicity he has recently received, wrote the following update this morning:
Close your eyes, and imagine a world where you don't have to worry about tomorrow. A world where you don't have to fight to survive. A world where you're never alone, and always loved. A world where you feel like you actually belong. A world where you are happy. This is what I do before I go to sleep. I detach from the failings of this world. I've never really liked being here, it's so worthless in comparison to the world I should live in.
In a response under that update, he wrote, "No one has ever loved me. And no one ever will."
An hour earlier, he had written:
Villain, Hero, Anti-hero, whatever. This is the first time in my entire life that I've ever been anyone. After spending a lifetime as just another rejected, dejected loner, in isolation. Another number in an 8 billion person sea. Why regret anything? You might as well swim a little bit, before you sink. Eventually, everyone sinks. The clock is ticking. You can't get back the years you've lost, and you can't control the future. Live in now, follow your own will, while you can. You can't count on anyone else. On anything else. There's not enough to go around, never enough for everyone to have what they want. So you get what you can, as you slowly fade away, into nothingness.
Thanks to the Internet, Brittain's problems become our problems.