One of the Web sites where stolen nude photos of celebrities first appeared is mysteriously down.
A message posted — above pornography — on AnonIB says: “Maintenance. Please bear with us while we perform the scheduled maintenance. We expect to have the service back and running in a few days (thank you J.L).”
Could “J.L.” be Jennifer Lawrence?
It’s not clear what prompted the site’s “maintenance.” As Buzzfeed pointed out, such maintenance usually takes a few hours, not a few days. Facing criticism after this week’s release of naked celebrity photos, AnonIB may be changing URLs, as it seems to have done in the past. A Google search turns up several chat rooms where AnonIB users complain of outages and disappearing discussion threads. One user even complained on his blog earlier this year about the site’s disappearing act.
But if AnonIB is playing a cat and mouse game with its critics, it’s winning.
Activists against “revenge porn” and people upset to find stolen images of themselves on the site circulated a petition last year encouraging the FBI to have it taken down. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
The FBI said in a statement issued Monday that it is “aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter.” But it’s not clear what, if anything, the FBI can legally do to shut AnonIB down. Individuals who discover their images on the site have little recourse.
Mitchell J. Matorin, an intellectual property lawyer, explained to Vox that Web sites and Internet service providers can’t legally be held responsible for information posted by users. (The images on AnonIB are all uploaded by users.) One exception is for copyrighted material — but professional models complain that, after finding their images on AnonIB, they have trouble getting them removed. Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, copyright owners can ask the Internet Service Provider hosting the Web site to take down images posted without their consent, but as Matorin pointed out, “9 times out of 10, those letters are ignored.”
When ISP’s don’t remove the images after being notified, copyright owners have a new problem: figuring out who to sue.
“With AnonIB and its servers hosted outside the United States, the site itself would be difficult to sue,” Michael Macomber, a civil attorney for the Albany, N.Y., law firm Tully Rinckey, told the Daily Gazette. “And the anonymity it grants the people who post pictures to the site likely means they don’t carry logs of who uploads them.”
While it’s down, AnonIB suggests visitors check out a new “private adult community” called “No Porn Here” available to a “very limited amount of members” that is soon to launch.