The Feds Reach A Settlement With Craig Brittain, Revenge Pornster and Extortionist Behind "Is Anybody Down"

Back in 2012 and 2013 I wrote about the saga of Craig Brittain and his revenge porn site "Is Anybody Down." The genesis of that series was Marc Randazza's discovery that the site was posting nude pictures and contact information, and someone calling themselves "David Blade III, takedown lawyer" was charging to "help" get the stuff taken down. All evidence suggested that David Blade never existed and that he was an invention of Craig Brittain, the operator of the site. In other words, it was an unusually despicable wire fraud and extortion scheme.

I counseled patience, because the system's wheels grind slowly. Finally we have a consequence to Brittain — of a sort.

The Federal Trade Commission — which was investigating Craig back in 2013 — has reached a settlement with him. The FTC had prepared an administrative complaint against Craig Brittain. That complaint shows that the FTC concluded several key points about Craig's practices. First this is their accusation about his methods of obtaining nude photos:

Respondent used three different methods to obtain photographs for the Website. First, Respondent encouraged and solicited individuals to submit, anonymously, photographs of other individuals with their intimate parts exposed for posting on the Website. Most submitters were men sending photographs of women. Respondent required that all submissions include at least two photographs, one of which had to be a full or partial nude, as well as the subject’s full name, date of birth (or age), town and state, a link to the subject’s Facebook profile, and phone number. Respondent received and compiled the photographs and personal information, posted them on the Website, and in some instances, Respondent posted additional personal information that he independently located about the subjects.

6. Second, Respondent posed as a woman on the Craigslist advertising website and, after sending other women photographs purportedly of himself, solicited photographs of them with their intimate parts exposed in return. If they sent such photographs, Respondent posted them on the Website without their knowledge or permission.

7. Third, Respondent instituted a “bounty system” on the Website, whereby anyone could request that others find and post photos of a specific person in exchange for a reward of at least $100. Respondent collected a “standard listing fee” of $20 for each request and half of all rewards given.

That contradicts Craig's various stories, which changed from day to day, but often centered around the claim "they consented."

Like everyone else who looked at the evidence, the FTC also concluded that Craig was David Blade III:

Respondent also advertised content removal services on the Website. In these advertisements, purported third parties identified as “Takedown Hammer” and “Takedown Lawyer” promised to have consumers’ content removed from the Website in exchange for a payment of $200 to $500. The advertisements referred interested consumers to the websites, www.takedownhammer.com and www.takedownlawyer.com, for further information. In fact, Respondent himself owned such websites, and posed as a third party to obtain money to remove the same photographs that he had posted on the Website.

11. Respondent earned approximately $12,000 from operating www.isanybodydown.com.

Craig has told many contradictory stories about David Blade, but he's always denied being him.

Craig settled this administrative complaint with the FTC. As far as I can tell he was not represented by counsel. Many people will find the terms of the settlement very unsatisfying. Craig admits no guilt. He doesn't go to jail. He doesn't pay any money. He does promise not to post nude pictures without the subjects' consent, and not to make misrepresentations about posting pictures online. He does have to destroy all the pictures and identity information he got while running the site. He also has to inform any employees or agents working with him on any web enterprise about the order. If he does anything else web-related, he has to turn over to the FTC at their demand a wide variety of information (privacy and consent policies, complaints, etc.) about the business. He has to tell the FTC for the next 10 years if he changes jobs, so they can watch what he's doing. And the terms of the order last 20 years.

A few thoughts about this based on my past dealings with the FTC:

1. This suggests the FTC determined he had no assets worth taking.

2. If he violates the order, the FTC can file against him in federal court. The resulting civil/administrative process only bears the most remote resemblance to due process. It will be ridiculously easy for the FTC to shut down and confiscate any new enterprise he starts for the next 20 years. The clients I've seen be most mercilessly and thoroughly screwed without pretense of fairness have been FTC defendants in federal court.

3. Craig Brittain is now subject to a permanent and relationship-and-career-debilitating stigma. Employers, lenders, landlords and others won't necessarily pick up internet drama. But you can bet that they'll pick up on an FTC consent order. Craig may want to change his name to something without such baggage, like maybe Pustule Nickelback McHitler III.

4. This doesn't prevent criminal prosecution. Nothing in the agreement shows any guarantee by the feds. The feds couldn't prevent state prosecution. Realistically, I think it means that federal prosecution is unlikely for past deeds. [I'd love to make a convincing argument here that this shows that he's about to be indicted, just to mess with his head. But I'm not a lowlife liar like Craig Brittain.] Federal prosecutors have limited resources and will likely see this as a resolution of any investigation. As for state prosecution, it's still possible given the applicable statute of limitations. A victim might take the FTC complaint and Craig's agreement to the locals and use it as incentive to go after him for fraud or extortion, as some locals are doing as we speak. If you are one of Craig's victims, and want help putting together a package to persuade locals, I'm happy to help.

However, be sure of this — if Craig Brittain ever gets up to bad behavior again, this result makes it much more likely that prosecutors will decide to spend resources on him.

Is this the end of the Craig Brittain saga? Not necessarily. But it's certainly an end to Craig Brittain ever being employable.

He'll have to spend his time at his new hobby — trying to insinuate himself into GamerGate, which for whatever reason he thought would be receptive.

Edit: Adam offers up a link-dense post tracing Craig's changing excuses and stories. That post is why you don't want Adam investigating you.

Second Edit: Apparently you can find Craig at this Twitter account. He's concerned about media ethics.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. PallidMaskedKing says

    I was kind of hoping the feds would prosecute him, but I'll be honest and say I have no idea under what statute it could happen.

    If nothing else, this hopefully means he's under close scrutiny and keep him from scamming anyone else or sleazing up the internet further.

  2. SirWired says

    I have a hard time getting upset about FTC defendants getting rushed through the system if they choose to violate an FTC order. Given that most of the behavior the FTC sues against ranges from "low-life scum who choose to pretend federal law doesn't exist" to "blatantly criminal" they should consider themselves lucky that your average FTC consent order consists of nothing more than promising not to keep doing the highly illegal things you were doing before, and turn over whatever small fraction of your assets you haven't stuck under the couch or shipped abroad.

    To be referred to the DOJ, it appears that you have to utterly ignore your initial FTC agreement, ignore the follow-up agreement (where you agree to leave the business you've been caught twice doing bad things), and then, and only then, you get charged with the life-shattering charge of contempt. (And you STILL don't get charged with stealing people's money over, and over.)

    You grab a couple of TV's from Wal-Mart and you get to spend at least a few days in jail. You steal $M's by illegally calling people on the phone (robocalls), then selling them illegal services ("credit repair" or "mortgage relief" that is pre-paid) and then never even have any intention of delivering said services, and all you get is an FTC consent order.

    Yeah, my sympathy is pretty much zero.

  3. QHS says

    Hell, GG was receptive towards Jack "enhanced disbarred" Thompson as long as he was actively denouncing Anita Sarkeesian.

  4. tmitsss says

    Can you say Kevin Trudeau?
    1998 he [Trudeau] was sued by U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making false or misleading claims in infomercials promoting his book The Weight-Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About. In 2004, he settled that action, by agreeing to pay a $500,000 fine and consenting to a lifetime ban on promoting products other than his books via infomercials.[1] On November 29, 2011, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $37.6 million fine levied against him for violating that 2004 settlement. Additionally, on remand, the district court modified its final order, requiring that he post a $2 million bond before engaging in future infomercial advertising.[2][3][4] In April 2013 he was reported to have filed for bankruptcy to avoid fines and stay further Federal prosecution.[5]

    In 2013, he was twice briefly jailed for continued failure to pay fines related to his conviction, pleading poverty while continuing to live a lavish lifestyle.[6] In November 2013, Trudeau was convicted of criminal contempt and incarcerated;[7] and on March 17, 2014, Trudeau was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.[8]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Trudeau

  5. PallidMaskedKing says

    @QHS Given the amount of shit he's been given on twitter, I'm pretty sure only the very nastiest portion of GG even pretends to like him.

    Even ones that constantly mock SJWs don't want him anywhere near them. Hell, he wiped his twitter account again after the amount of 4chan funposting he was drawing.

  6. Nicholas Weaver says

    Also, for any local prosecutors, I still have my archived analysis, saved data, and a writeup, and I charge $0/hr for expert testimony on this particular subject.

  7. JTVega says

    Actually, GG found out that Craig had a God Complex and wanted to use us as his personal army, we honestly told him to fuck off, he kept pestering us with sockpuppet accounts.An outside group that is neutral to Gamergate known as Team #Ayy posted Meme's mocking his quotes he said. He is very is much nuts case that we avoid in GG sorry to burst your bubble we don't want anything to do with him.

  8. John Cobalt says

    Linking him to GG is dishonest, first thing he did was to try to make us his personal army. He was dismissed immediately afterwards and have only been ridiculed ever since. As for whether he has any valid ethical concerns, it doesn't really matter since they won't be promoted by GG, we do however value ideas higher then where the ideas are coming from so he could post anonymous and get taken as serious as anyone else but in all practical regards he is Persona non Grata.

  9. mcinsand says

    There was a bit of small mercy in your suggestion for a new name: Pustule Nickelback McHitler III. Thank heaven you don't always have to include your middle name on a form!

  10. Matthew I says

    Craig may want to change his name to something without such baggage, like maybe Pustule Nickelback McHitler III.

    Reminds me of an article I read about Circleville, Ohio a few months ago.

    Those who left the area, however, faced harassment, particularly during Adolf Hitler's reign.

    George Hitler Jr. said his father moved from Circleville to Akron and eventually became an executive at the Firestone tire company. At one point, the company president asked Hitler to change his name, but he refused.

    Emphasis added.

  11. TTC says

    Craig Bratton's business model has spread from the revenge porn genre into other social media businesses. From what I can tell, it's especially prominent with sites that allow you to report cheating exes. In an ironic twist, James McGibney*, famous for taking down Hunter Moore, has partnered with an arbitration service called 'Truth In Posting' to handle take down requests for posts on his anti cheating/bullying websites. All for a reasonable fee of course. Even if it's truly arms length, it still seems pretty sketchy to me.

    From what I understand, Bratton and Moore got in trouble because of their ancillary acts (extortion and hacking respectively). If a revenge pornographer is simply hosting the material, then I'm out of luck because of Sec.230? Would there be any recourse available at all? Maybe false light against the ex who posted it? IANAL, but interested in legal stuff.

    * There's a Neal Renhauser/Brett Kimberlin connection if you're a devotee of that particular internet crazyness.

  12. sorrykb says

    It's good to see at last some consequences to Craig Brittain for his actions.

    In other news…
    Ken White wrote:

    I'm not sure why people are taking "trying to insinuate himself in GamerGate" as "GamerGate accepted him."

    Profound insecurity?
    Reading comprehension problems?
    Auto-reply button stuck on "no true Scotsman"?

  13. Dan Weber says

    Fuck it, let's go full Godwin:

    If Hitler was trying to insinuate himself in my group, I'd tell people that we kicked him out.

  14. Sami says

    GamerGate is the perfect environment for him, though. His past bullshit was misogynistic revenge porn. GamerGate is founded on one creepy manchild's bitter rant against his ex-girlfriend somehow prompting a disturbing number of internet misogynists to enact his revenge.

  15. Lance says

    @John Cobalt

    The quote, "trying to insinuate himself into GamerGate, which for whatever reason he thought would be receptive." implies that GamerGate was not reception and suggests that he was delusional for even attempting to find sympathy there.

  16. Jacob H says

    Well, I guess I'll join the chorus of people who think he got off too light. Maybe it's just my spidey-sense, though – I don't think this is the last we'll hear of him. And as Ken suggested, next time it'll be a whole lot worse than a slap on the wrist.

  17. Flip says

    This is somewhat unsatisfying, yes. But then being unemployable, still capable of being civilly sued and made the subject of a local criminal case… Well, I guess that is enough really.

    I was accused by Brittain of being a shill when I tried to get some clear answers from him back when he appeared on a radio station website. It's funny to see him still going on about conspiracies:
    https://twitter.com/AuditTheMedia/status/560948828417687552

    I doubt this is a sign that he'll move on and learn, from the looks of it he just considers this a small loss against Big Brother and all those meanies out there.

    Oh and though I'm loathe to admit that I know this but 'Drop Dead Diva' did an episode about revenge porn: lucky woman had the fortune to own the copyright on the photos so she won the case.

  18. Trent says

    Man those gamergate people sure are defensive but I doubt I was the only person besides Craig that thought he would fit right in with them. I suspect the only reason he was rejected was because of the whole 4chan personal army thing rather than anything to do about his character.

    Here's hoping he violates the consent order and ends up in prison for 10 years like Kevin Trudeau.

  19. Dan Weber says

    When I was much younger I used to think that being made unemployable was righteous justice.

    But it's not. And if he has harmed others and owes them recompense, then being employed will make it easier for him to make his victims whole.

  20. Jacob H says

    @Dan – Good point. I'd rather he worked at McDonald's and had half his check garnished (after his jail time), than live in his mom's basement for the rest of his life and his victims get nothing.

  21. Andrew Gray says

    Pustule Nickelback McHitler wasn't such a bad guy, if you take into account all the people whose lives he *didn't* ruin.

  22. That Anonymous Coward says

    The wheels on the justice go round and round, round and round, the wheels on the justice go round and round all to freaking slow.

    While I do think it is sad that he has no assets they could find, I still expect that many of his targets would still enjoy seeing him in court time after time.
    He made their lives hell, "allegedly" catfished more content, and then had the gall to demand payments to end the horror.
    He enjoyed shaming them, saying they never should have taken the pictures and blaming his victims.
    This is one of those cases where nothing will make the victims whole again, but watching him suffer would give them some solace that he will have touched a tiny fragment of what he inflicted on them.
    He was very upset when his nudes from his "career" of being paid to get naked on cam for anyone willing to pay the price, but couldn't see how what he was doing to others was wrong.
    Let the lessons begin. I see many people willing to lend a hand to hopefully impress on him that what he did was wrong and his own suffering is nothing but a long line of his own creation.

  23. mcinsand says

    A thirdhand story that is only semi-relevant. I wouldn't pass it on except for the fact that the person that made the story secondhand is a coworker that I've learned to trust; if he's not sure, he'll hold back. Anyway, his brother worked in Germany as a bartender and a group of guys came in one night. They got to talking and he asked if they were in town for any particular reason. They were there for a concert, they said. He asked who they were going to see, and they said that they were going to play. They said they were Nickelback, and had a great response when my coworker's brother asked the obvious "really?": "well it's not like anyone else would admit it."

  24. BatteriesInc says

    I looked at the TV interview on Adam's site (btw, it seems partly broken, the "about" link shows a "bad gateway" error), and it's interesting to just watch this guy's eyes. I'm 3 minutes in, and without without baseline questions you immediately notice that he breaks no eye contact whatsoever, which is not a good sign. I also caught some "duper's delight" flashes. I may suffer from confirmation bias, however, so would welcome someone else to just watch (you can leave the sound off :) ).

    I would be also interested to see the "David" emails as well as his own to compare, not so much for content but for full header information. If the email sequence numbers were close together it means they were sent with the same software. Headers can tell you a *lot* if you know what you're looking at..

  25. Jon H says

    @Dan: "But it's not. And if he has harmed others and owes them recompense, then being employed will make it easier for him to make his victims whole."

    People with the kind of notoriety Brittain has achieved have a way of staying employed – they hook up with unethical people who admire their previous exploits.

  26. Resolute says

    I find it amusing at the gamergaters posting how upset they are that Brittain tried to use them as his personal army. A man who made a living out of harassing and threatening women trying to take control of a "movement" that exists only to harass and threaten women. That is synergy if I ever saw it. Also amused to see that Brittain's "Audit the Media" Twitter account is infatuated with Charles C. Johnson. What all of this indicates is that the stupid and shallow tend to gravitate towards each other.

  27. Basil Forthrightly says

    "People with the kind of notoriety Brittain has achieved have a way of staying employed – they hook up with unethical people who admire their previous exploits."

    True that. My sleazy former employer (who now spends some of his time testifying about the even sleazier Internet advertisers his company used to do business with) once hired a guy who had appeared before Congress in an investigation of the fake legal ID industry. Said guy had produced licenses that met the legal requirement of having big red letters indicating the fake nature of the document, but on a clear easily removable layer. My employer crowed about the coup of hiring such a guy, who could "think outside the box" to avoid government regulations.

  28. Argentina Orange says

    I'm assuming that the gratuitous GG mention was because there hasn't been a 300+ comment post in a week? Maybe you could include abortion and/or the Israel/Palestine situation too?

  29. En Passant says

    Color me slightly confused.

    Ken wrote and provided a link in the original post:

    A victim might take the FTC complaint and Craig's agreement to the locals and use it as incentive to go after him for fraud or extortion, as some locals are doing as we speak.

    The link is to a news report of the trial of one Kevin Bollaert, for acts much like those of Craig Brittain.

    But is Bollaert an AKA for Brittain? Or are these two different perpetrators in two different cases? Were they working together in a conspiracy? Or what? Gauging from the domain names in the complaint against Bollaert, his case is entirely unrelated to Brittain, against a different perpetrator, for similar but otherwise unrelated crimes.

    Link to the criminal complaint against Bollaert is here:

    http://oag.ca.gov/system/files/attachments/press_releases/Complaint_3.pdf

  30. Votre says

    Once you get past the disappointment of not seeing him to get his ass kicked royally, it's not a bad outcome from the perspective of the long game. They might have (maybe) jailed him for a year or two all in. But now, they can destroy any attempts he makes to start a new life at the drop of a hat – without the need to convince a jury – or find a judge that doesn't have much use for due process.

    They defanged him. And that's the most important thing. What they do to him going forward, either to reinforce the lesson – or just to repeatedly screw him over for laughs – is purely a matter of esthetics.

    It ain't a perfect outcome. But…it ain't a perfect world.

  31. Trent says

    En Passant:

    If you followed the story back and read it on the original timeline it appears that Brittain copied Bollaert's model. Without asking Craig there is no way to be sure but Bollaert was first by a wide margin and IIRC was even shutdown before Brittain started his site, the implication being that Brittain copied the idea. Again no way to know without talking to perpetrators so draw your own conclusions.

  32. En Passant says

    Trent January 30, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    If you followed the story back and read it on the original timeline it appears that Brittain copied Bollaert's model.

    Thanks. I was a more than a bit slow on the draw today.

  33. barry says

    While still in 'everything offends somebody' mode, I'd like to point out that the name 'Pustule Nickelback McHitler III' might possibly offend some Scots. It does not offend me personally, but in the spirit of (and almost the definition of) political correctness, which is to take offence on the behalf of somebody else; THINK OF THE SCOTS.

    Unless you intended to offend Scots, then its OK.

    You might insist that no true Scotsman would be offended, but even the most carefully considered insult gang aft agley.

  34. Adam Steinbaugh says

    Bollaert copied Craig Brittain. Another revenge porn site owner, Casey Meyering, copied and pasted Craig's "TakedownHammer" site — design, name, and all. Meyering has been indicted in California for extortion.

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