I've been out of sorts of late, riven with the suburban fin de siècle, plagued with ennui, angst, weltschmertz. You know — moping.
There's only so many free speech cases I can write about in a week. Nobody pony-worthy is writing to me. I'm waiting for a couple of shoes to drop on the UST Development fraud investigation.
If only there were a nice juicy scam out there to chase . . .
Marc Randazza to the rescue!
Oh, but Marc found such a fine nest of cockroaches worthy of stomping. You may recall there was a website called "Is Anyone Up?, which featured nude pictures of women often submitted by angry ex-boyfriends or otherwise misappropriated, posted with their names and hometowns and other elements making it likely they'd pop up on searches. The site was part of the same sick subculture that feeds the Violentacrez of the internet.
Since that site's decline, there have been many imitators. Marc Randazza is documenting a scam involving such a site, and a purported lawyer who will take money to get your picture taken down from it.
The Bogus Lawyer, And The Con
The copycat site — which I will not link — is called "Is Anyone Down?". That is the peak of its creativity. The companion lawyer site is "The Takedown Lawyer," [note: see update at end of post] run by "David Blade," who claims to be a public defender in New York who is doing this on the side. He offers a cut-rate price to get "personal information" down from sites like "Is Anybody Down?":
Our normal price is $250 – for that amount, we can make sure that your unwanted information is removed from these websites, so that you may have your freedom and your sanity back. We offer all of the same services that more expensive lawyers offer (DMCA takedown request, private investigation, takedown negotiation, filing request, subpoenas) at a fraction of the cost.
Funny thing, though: the advertisement on "David Blade's" own site "The Takedown Lawyer" is pretty brief. If you want to see more details of David's practice, you have to look at his longer advertisement and explanation of his practice — at the "Is Anyone Down?" website, reached by clicking the "Get Me Off This Site!" tab:
Hello! I’m the Takedown Lawyer and so far, I’ve had 42 clients come to me to have their pictures and information removed from Is Anybody Down, all of whom were a success! I have people’s pictures and information taken down from sites like these all the time; including over 38 removals from the original “Is Anyone Up” over the past 2 years.
My guarantee is that your pictures and information will be taken down within 48 hours for a lot less than what the average lawyer will charge you. If your pictures and info aren’t removed, I will refund your money.
Your costs with me will generally be $200-$300, which is far less than most lawyers will charge for a mere consultation of your case.
I’m so confident in my abilities as an attorney that I took out an ad on this page just to show you that I mean business. I understand that sites like these can cause many problems in your personal life and I want to help you get your peace of mind and privacy back!
"David Blade" goes on to explain that he's a college pal of the person who runs "Is Anybody Down?", explaining his success at getting content taken down. Read the whole thing in Marc's post; it's stunning.
But the relationship between the sites is even closer than the advertisement admits. This summer blogger Ipka pointed out that the same individual, Craig Brittain of Colorado Springs, Colorado, registered both "Takedown Lawyer" and "Is Anybody Down?" — Ipka caught the details before Mr. Brittain clumsily attempted to anonymize hosting.
So: you've got (purportedly) two sites working in harmony. One site puts up misappropriated nude pictures, the other site charges a fee to get them taken down, on the pretense that it is run by an independent lawyer representing the best interests of the wronged victims. But they are registered by the same person — Craig Brittain — and the second site advertises on the first. That, friends and neighbors, sure looks like wire fraud and interstate extortion. You've got a scheme to defraud using the interstate wires to tell people they need to pay a purportedly independent "lawyer" to get pictures down when the lawyer is actually a confederate, and you've got a scheme to use the interstate wires to demand money in exchange for taking down embarrassing pictures. Were I still a prosecutor I'd take the case in a heartbeat; as a defense lawyer I'd charge a hefty retainer, because that's going to be hard to defend.
Marc Talks To "Blade"
As Marc points out, there is no attorney "David Blade" registered with the New York bar. If this were an attorney, he'd be in a world of hurt with the state bar — he's violated conflict of interest rules, advertising restrictions, and any number of other prohibitions. But I don't think he is a lawyer. There is no "David Blade," and though someone pretending to be "David Blade" might have been pre-law or watched Matlock once, "David Blade's" material was not written by a real lawyer — and certainly not by a public defender. There are stupid lawyers, there are bullshit artist lawyers, and there are crazy lawyers, but even crazy stupid bullshit artist lawyers sound different than non-lawyers, as a result of being dehumanized by legal education and the practice of law.
How sure am I? Pretty sure, based on the evidence. Never a shrinking violet, Marc wrote "David Blade" to get his side of it, with hilarious results worth reading in full. "Blade" admitted that "Blade" is an alias, but blustered that he is a lawyer, he protects his identity to protect his family, and that what he does is completely legitimate. Faced with New York Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(h) ("All advertisements shall include the name, principal law office address and telephone number of the lawyer or law firm whose services are being offered."), "Blade" offers this epic word salad:
Rule 7.1(h) is specifically pursuant to case law. I do not engage in case law, civil law, or trial law using TakedownLawyer.com. I solely engage in mitigated/mediated takedowns, which are not considered to be a legal service, on behalf of clients of TakedownLawyer.com. The reference to my legal credentials is solely for credibility. If, for example, you were to build a website called "MowingLawyer.com", Where you engaged in yard services for clients, you would be under the same rules. Trust that I have a much better understanding of the laws in New York State
than you ever will.
. . . which, by the way, he signs "David Blade III." The "III" is for "three times as hilarious."
There's more in that correspondence — the attempts to bribe Randazza with clients, and finishes with threats:
This is a notice that you will cease and desist what you are doing, pursuant to police contact and contact with the State Bar Association of Nevada. You are knowingly committing extortion.
Yeah. "Pursuant to police contact." Sure that's a public defender. More likely it's a person of modest abilities who may need a public defender soon in a state such as, oh, I don't know, just for the sake of argument, Colorado.
Ken Talks To Craig Brittain
I decided to see if I could get a comment from the proprietors of "Is Anybody Down?" so I wrote to Craig Brittain. I asked, among other things, who "David Blade" is. Brittain responded swiftly.
David Blade is an attorney who provides the same sort of services available on websites like dmca.com. Mediated/mitigated takedowns. We've already been thoroughly investigated numerous times and found to be free of any wrongdoing whatsoever. You can think what you want to. Extortion would be if I threatened to release photos of people unless they paid me. I do not engage in extortion. I post photos I receive from submitters, meaning that I am not responsible for their submissions to begin with, and I am simply posting on behalf of the submitters who hold the entirety of the responsibility for their submissions. I reserve the right to remove content for any reason, or no reason at all.
David Blade operates to remove content on behalf of clients via mediated/mitigated takedown as an independent third party. I have zero desire to remove the content – ideally, posts would never be removed from my website. However, some people go to drastic measures when their pictures are posted. David Blade's services are a safety measure – a provision for people who would hire lawyers or do more drastic things like crime or suicide. I make no profit from his legal services – he only pays me a flat, fixed fee for hosting and advertising on my website.
The reason for his condition of anonymity is the number of death threats that are associated with our website. He has multiple children and a primary vocation to handle. He doesn't have time to deal with lunatics who endanger his safety and the safety of his family or his business. I used to get tons of death threats and hatemail – which was the reason when Dave offered me a deal, I fully agreed.
One of the main concerns with IsAnyoneUp was the danger that it presented to the public. I do not run a dangerous website. I do not run an illegal website. I run an entertaining, but responsible website designed as entertainment. If worse comes to worse, David Blade is there so that people don't have to take drastic measures or spend thousands of dollars to have their content removed.
This results in a safer website, less overall complaints, and in general a positive experience for all users and those who are pictured on the website. Everyone wins. My website is the safest out of any of the sites in our niche.
I hope this has been educational for you.
– Craig Brittain
There you have it. He's sticking with the "David Blade exists and is a lawyer" story. He's claiming that David Blade is paid by advertising on his site, which David Blade uses to solicit clients for which he is paid with more advertising on the site. As is common with sociopaths, he's quite confident and facile.
And he has no idea whatsoever what he's gotten himself into.
I probed further:
You say you've been "thoroughly investigated numerous times." By whom? Would you like to name any of the law enforcement or regulatory agencies or lawyers that have investigated you?
Are you represented by an attorney? Would you like to provide his or her contact information?
Also, if safety is such a concern — why have you — the one running the site — operated with no secrecy whatsoever, yet "David Blade," the one helping people take pictures down, is the one using a fake name?
Numerous people claim to have filed reports with the FBI and Police. I have reason to believe that we have been investigated.
I have spoken directly with Marc Randazza via telephone. We'll be handling this from here. Thanks for your inquiry.
I will look forward to Marc's description of that call, if it took place. Meanwhile, the polite face that "Is Anybody Down?" is showing me is not at all the face it is showing to Marc Randazza, who is being sworn at incoherently.
So: time for some scam investigation funtime. If there is a "David Blade," I'm going to work with Marc to expose him; if there's not, I'm going to work with Marc to prove who is posing as him.
You know, when you chase internet scammers you often have to accept that even when they are exposed, nothing will happen to them. But in this case, I like the chances of someone here going to jail, or at least taking a felony hit. Plus, you can help make the internet just a little bit better by working as a team to stomp vermin like this.
They are already trying to cover their tracks:
Due to ethical concerns our business and the website will now be called ‘Takedown Hammer’.
Rest assured we will continue to provide the same great content removal request services.
funny, i just spoke to someone involved… they say that David Blade’s site is going to be changed, with no “attorney” implication on it.
. . . and the "David Blade" ad on the "Is Anybody Down?" site has disappeared at the time of this writing.
Too little, too late, too late, too late.
The site that was "The Takedown Lawyer" — now called "The Takedown Hammer" — now includes this language:
At Takedown Hammer. our independent third party team can issue a successful content removal request on your behalf, guaranteeing that your content will be removed ASAP.
Sorry, guys, but that's still wire fraud. Face it — you're not independent. You're in a conspiracy with the site owner.
More to follow. Oh, believe me — more to follow.
Third update: In his post about nasty emails from "Is Anybody Up?" Marc has posted an additional exchange, which I also host here. The exchange is revealing. Note the continued sociopathic entitlement.
How does it feel to know that you're basically shitting on the people you're supposed to be defending? You are a fucking asshole. You didn't even have the balls to contact me, instead you went to pick on Dave. If you've got a beef with me, talk to me, but don't blame Dave. He helps people. You, on the other hand, you don't give a shit about free speech, that's all a fucking copout. You just smell money, like a shark smells blood, and jump into the fucking water don't you? And then when the fucking veins run dry you go looking for someone else to bite in the ass.
I thought I was a shitty person, until I saw what you're doing. Who's your client against me? Or are you just fucking with me for no apparent reason at all other than you have a hardon for my website or something? Got anything else you want to say, make up, falsify, etc.? I'm right here if you want to talk. You can talk to me all fucking day long, but you'll leave Dave the fuck alone. He's not responsible for the content of our website or the other websites on his takedown list.
Here's looking forward to whatever bullshit you write in response.
Why are they so angry about Marc going after "David"?
Fourth Update: The shit's hitting the fan for the scammers.
2. Adam Steinbaugh weighs in, showing evidence that Craig Brittain is getting content by conning people on Craigslist.
Fifth Update: After Adam's post above, the scammers began sending the "legal threats" posts he notes down the memory hole — just as if there wasn't Google cache, or screenshots. Maybe they're going for "we're too dim to form fraudulent intent."
By the way, as far as I can tell from correspondence, Craig Brittain's defense is (1) David Blade exists and legitimately helps people take down pictures from "Is Anybody Down?", AND (2) "Is Anybody Down?" only has pictures from people who consent to have their pictures there. OK Craig.