Perhaps the scariest thing about revenge porn, besides the baser human instincts it represents, is how legally difficult it is to get non-consensual nude pictures offline.

Web site operators are typically protected from legal action under Internet legislation from the mid-’90s.

Photos often can’t be taken down under copyright law, because the victim doesn’t own them unless they’re selfies.

And while past victims have sought redress under harassment, stalking or privacy laws, that route can be expensive, litigious — and very lengthy.

But in an unprecedented settlement announced Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission indicated there might be another, heretofore unheard of way to get compromising private photos off the Internet: pursuing revenge pornographers for unfair business practices.

“I applaud the FTC,” said Charlotte Laws, a prominent anti-revenge porn activist. “It provides another tool for victims.”

The initial complaint, which the FTC apparently filed within the past four weeks, was against Colorado-based creep Craig Brittain, who ran the now-defunct isanybodydown.com from 2011 to 2013. (You may recognize that URL: It’s a rip-off of “Is Anyone Up,” the revenge porn site that Hunter Moore, the Internet’s “most hated man,” ran under the slogan “pure evil” until 2012.)

Like Is Anyone Up, Is Anybody Down operated under a pretty straightforward, shameless business model. Brittain (a) solicited women’s nude photos on Craigslist and/or from their jilted exes; (b) published the photos, often with the women’s names and phone numbers attached; and (c), cha-ching, charged women fees of $200 to $500 to take the photos down.

This is, thankfully, where the FTC comes in: Is Anybody Down was a business, the agency points out, so it falls under the commission’s regulatory domain. And since that business caused “substantial injury to consumers” — as in, every woman who encountered it — they were able to convince Brittain to settle, destroying all the images he had already and agreeing to never operate a revenge porn site again.

Of course, Brittain is just one guy, and Is Anybody Down is just one site. It remains to be seen if the FTC will take this approach to the revenge-porn industry more broadly. (The FTC declined to elaborate on its future plans to the Associated Press, and did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.) There is also a whole lot of revenge porn out there that has no financial or business motivations, and thus doesn’t fall into the FTC’s domain, notes Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami and the legislative policy director for the Cyber Civil Rights Institute. (Celebgate, and the threatened leak of Taylor Swift’s hacked nudes, immediately come to mind.)

“The FTC complaint and consent order is tremendously significant,” Franks said. “It is a statement by the federal government that disseminating sexually explicit images of a person without ‘affirmative express consent in writing’ is illegal.”

Still, she adds, it’s “of limited usefulness to victims. Once an image is released online, it is nearly impossible to remove it completely. … We know that the rise of ‘revenge porn’ won’t really stop until society expresses its unequivocal condemnation for this activity.”

Until then? Organizations like the CCRI are partnering with law firms to offer free assistance to victims, and pressuring state and federal legislatures to adopt laws that will provide criminal and civil penalties for non-consensual pornography.

They’re hoping that, given enough pressure and publicity, more federal agencies and officials will follow the FTC’s lead.

Sharing pornographic images of an ex for revenge? That's perfectly legal -- in most states. But as victims are speaking up, state governments are stepping in, making it a criminal offense to text, email or upload intimate photos of someone else without their consent. (Theresa Poulson/The Washington Post)