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, and, 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

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.

"Is Anybody Down" Update: The Wheels Grind Slowly, But They Grind

Late last year I wrote about the vile humiliation-porn and extortion website "Is Anybody Down?" and its thoroughly creepy and sociopathic founders Craig Brittain and Chance Trahan. I wrote about how they engaged in a mail and wire fraud scheme by inventing a fake lawyer "David Blade III" to whom victims could pay to have their pictures and information taken down, and how Craig Brittain — who fancies himself a champion of free speech — tried to abuse the DMCA to get posts about him taken down. My posts on the subject are collected here.

I haven't written about them since them, but they've remained in the news. Adam Steinbaugh has been doing good work keeping track of them. Craig Brittain has been on a sort of national douchebag tour, showing up on blogs all over and television and newspapers. Trahan, by contrast, has been trying to distance himself from the whole enterprise and, so far as I can tell, set up a "not competent to stand trial" strategy. Civil and criminal disputes are generally not settled by freestyle rap battles.

Some have been frustrated by the fact that, aside from infamy and the ugly reality of living every day as themselves, Brittain and Trahan seem to have escaped consequences to date. People frustrated by that aren't used to the law's delay. The wheels grind slowly, but my friends, they do grind.

Civil attorneys are gathering and interacting with victims. Meanwhile, CBS Denver reports that the federal government has taken an interest.

Last week, a staff attorney for the federal agency contacted CBS4 with numerous questions about the CBS4 investigation. She characterized the inquiry as a “preliminary investigation” and asked that her name and agency not be revealed until a decision had been made on whether to go forward with a full blown federal investigation.

. . . .

“It’s not good for him,” she said of her agency’s interest in Brittain’s Internet activities. She said if her agency presses forward, they would likely seek “injunctive relief” to take down the website, but she conceded that would likely take months.

From that information, based on my experience, I suspect that the agency in question is the Federal Trade Commission. You might be disappointed that it's not a local United States Attorney's Office pursuing criminal charges. Don't be. First of all, a civil suit by the FTC is often the vanguard of a later criminal investigation by the local U.S. Attorney's Office. Second — and this is a Very Bad Thing not just for Brittain and Trahan, but for American justice — FTC lawsuits tend to yield the most grotesque parody of due process you're likely to see in a federal civil proceeding. As I've said before, I haven't seen any criminal clients — even ones accused of terrible things — screwed the way people targeted by the FTC get screwed. Typical consequences include draconian preliminary injunctions issued based on half-assed government requests, global asset freezes, and offensively perfunctory proceedings. Plus, federal and state criminal authorities wait in the wings to glean what they can from the information produced in the case.

So: the wheels are grinding. Watch them grind. Do Brittain and Trahan "deserve" it? Everyone accused of wrongdoing deserves due process. But in deciding how to feel about this, consider Adam Steinbaugh's latest post, in which he examines the allegations in a restraining order proceeding against Brittain back in 2005:

According to records provided by a Colorado court, Brittain’s ex-girlfriend (who I am not naming) alleged that after she broke up with him online, Brittain took control of one of her Yahoo accounts and began posting her phone number and address in a chat room, suggesting sexual acts. At about 7 in the morning, a man Brittain’s ex did not know, identifying himself as “Nate,” showed up at her door. ”Nate” explained that he had talked with someone he thought was Brittain’s ex-girlfriend an hour earlier. Presumably, “Nate” was not there to have breakfast.

Update On "Is Anybody Down?" Investigation And Bumptious Legal Threats From Craig Brittain And Chance Trahan

1. I've now collected all my posts about the vile site "Is Anybody Down?" and its sociopathic proprietors Craig Brittain and Chance Trahan under the tag Is Anybody Down?.

2. If you are new to the investigation, Adam Steinbaugh has a good summary of what's going on — which includes not just involuntary humiliation porn, but wire fraud — at this post.

3. Craig and Chance are now resorting to legal threats. One of them — probably Craig — has left two identical threats here, as well as at Adam's blog, on Wikipedia, and on a satirical video by Captain Obvious:

Be advised that these actions, your slander and screen shots can and will be used as key factors should a case be pursued against you. Your posting, advertising, marketing, dissipating and otherwise disseminating the slanderous materials constitute actionable violations of Mr. Trahan and Mr Brittain's rights of privacy and publicity.

This is a notably, remarkably stupid comment, even for an Internet Lawyer. First, slander is verbal; libel is written. Second, "be advised" is a reliable tell of an empty threat. Third, nobody is "marketing" anything; that sounds like an attempt to fabricate a copyright claim. All criticisms are non-commercial, making all quotes and screenshots fair use. Fourth, you gravel-knuckled troglodyte, you mean disseminating, not dissipating, and that word's already in the sentence. Fifth, Trahan and Brittain have no privacy or publicity rights to be free of criticism or satire, however popular that approach is to would-be censors.

4. Any victims — including people posted on "Is Anybody Down?", but especially victims who were defrauded into paying money into the imaginary "David Blade" — are still welcome to contact me or Marc Randazza, and we will continue to connect you with law enforcement and attorneys in your jurisdiction.

5. A few people have asked me what I mean when I say that the "David Blade" scam constitutes federal wire fraud. Here's what I mean. The federal wire fraud statute provides:

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

The elements of wire fraud — that is, the facts that the government must prove to secure a conviction — are these:

United States v. Profit, 49 F.3d 404, 406 n. 1 (8th Cir.) (the four essential elements of the crime of wire fraud are: (1) that the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money; (2) that the defendant did so with the intent to defraud; (3) that it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used; and (4) that interstate wire communications were in fact used)

Here, the evidence set forth in Marc Randazza's posts, the posts here, and Adam's posts suggest the following: the proprietors of "Is Anybody Down?" devised a scheme in which they would post naked pictures and personal contact information of both women and men. They then posted advertisements by "David Blade," who was promoted as an independent lawyer who would represent the victims and get posts taken down. In truth and fact, "David Blade" does not exist; he is a persona created by and operated by the proprietors of the site as part of the scheme to get people to pay him under false pretenses. He is not independent, he is not a lawyer, and he is not working for his victim "clients"; he is purely an invention to get them to pay money to get their pictures taken down on the pretense that he is rendering independent services. The proprietors of the site promoted this view not only by operating the "David Blade" persona, but by publishing and ridiculing takedown requests and demands sent directly to them. "David Blade" did, in fact, collect money from victims. Multiple parts of the scheme — including the web posts, the communications with victims, and the payments — forseeably used interstate wire communications. Now that the proprietors of the site have abandoned the David Blade persona and changed "The Takedown Lawyer" to the "Takedown Hammer," they are simply extending the fraud scheme by slightly different means, as they are still advertising that "our independent third party team can issue a successful content removal request on your behalf, guaranteeing that your content will be removed ASAP," when in truth and in fact "The Takedown Hammer" is not an independent third party team at all, but is another persona of the "Is Anybody Down?" site.

That's wire fraud. It's also a violation of fraud statutes in every state from which victims have paid "David Blade."

Craig Brittain of "Is Anybody Down?" Tries To Get Popehat Posts About Him Taken Down Under DMCA

Last week I introduced you to Marc Randazza's investigation of fraud and extortion by "Is Anybody Down?" and imaginary lawyer "David Blade III", discussed how Craig Brittain, owner of "Is Anybody Down?", couldn't keep his story straight about whether Blade existed or who he is, and made a clearly pointless appeal to the humanity of Craig Brittain and his partner Chance Trahan.

Craig updated his "trolldown" blog with an attack on me, which featured the sort of at-length paean to sociopathy you'd get if you went to a Team Fortress forum, picked the user with the most scatalogical and racist username, withheld his medication for 48 hours, and asked him to explain his personal philosophy.

But that's not all. Craig also tried to get the three posts about him on Popehat taken down by sending a bogus DMCA takedown notice to our host, Dreamhost. I've been a little mad at Dreamhost recently because of some outages, but I'm very happy with their response to this, which gives me confidence they will handle it correctly. They've recognized that's the notice is defective and they're not requiring a counter-notice from me yet — though I'd enjoy writing one.

Here, without further ado, is Craig's notice. I've only changed it to remove his home address and phone number. Comments after.

Received: 2012-11-03 01:14:01 from Is Anybody Down to DreamHost Abuse

November 3rd, 2012
Notification of Claimed Copyright Infringement (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512.)

To: It May Concern Dear Sir or Madam, I, Craig R. Brittain, swear under penalty of perjury that I have been authorized to act as the non-exclusive agent for copyright infringement notifications for the undersigned parties (see
name(s) of copyright holder(s)). I have detected infringements of my accounts copyright interests on a website hosted by as detailed in the reports below.

1. Name(s) of copyright holder(s):
Craig R. Brittain/Is Anybody Down/ Trahan/
2. Name of person authorized to act on behalf of copyright holder(s):
Craig R. Brittain
3. Identify the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed:
4. Include a representative list of such works at that site:
Numerous text excerpts from various websites owned by Craig R.
Brittain/Chance Trahan as well as various pictures.×562.png
5. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled:
The posts and images above contain personal information which is owned and copyrighted by its respective copyright owners and is damaging in nature and contains personal information in violation of copyright and numerous privacy laws and must be removed immediately.
6. Name of complaining party: Craig R. Brittain 7. Address: [omitted by Ken], Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80920 8. Phone: [omitted by Ken] 8. E- mail: I hereby affirm, as the complaining party, that I believe in good faith that the use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright holder, its agent or the law.
I hereby affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on behalf of the holder of the exclusive right that I claim to be infringed.

Craig R. Brittain_____________________________
Signature of person authorized to act
Date: November 3rd, 2012, 2:10 AM MST______________________

The notice is patently ridiculous on any number of levels. Note, for instance, that Mr. Brittain is asserting copyright in a printout of his criminal record and in a correspondence between "David Blade" and Marc Randazza.

Note also that in his under-penalty-of-perjury statement Mr. Brittain avoids asserting explicitly that "David Blade" is a real person. That's probably prudent.

It's not going to work, Craig. Even if you catch some abuse official on a bad day and convince them to take a few posts down, 100 more will pop up talking about your sick campaign of fraud and extortion.

My Dinner With Chance

Last night I had an exchange on Twitter with Chance Trahan, the business partner of Craig Brittain and co-founder of the "Is Anybody Down?"/Takedown Lawyer extortionate scam that represents an effort to monetize humiliation of women for the pleasure of sick freaks.

I had sent Chance a tweet a few days ago asking him who "David Blade" is; he responded with a torrent of all-caps meatheaded abuse. He's taken down the account now, but this screencap (courtesy of Something Awful forum goon E4C85D38) you can get a flavor of a bit of it:

Yes, I blew the lyric. I was watching TV.

Among other things, he said that he would be releasing an "app" to fight me on the site he and Craig Brittain have put up (that's the one saying that Marc Randazza and I have been paid $350,000 each in porn industry mafia blood money to oppress them) and called me a bully. He also called me a FAT TREND KILLER, which I think he meant as an insult.

(Craig and Chance have also attracted the attention and support of the floridly ill and evil Crystal Cox, who has used the occasion to put up a slew of new sites attacking me and my firm, which — by the way — has nothing to do with this blog.)

Chance's cry of "bully" echoes Craig's. This illustrates something I've long observed — as a nerdy, mouthy fat kid getting picked on, as a prosecutor going after con men, as a lawyer doing both criminal defense and civil litigation: nobody whines about bullying more than a bully. Craig Brittain and Chance Trahan gleefully created and promoted a site that puts up misappropriated or fraudulently obtained nude pictures of women, adds their names and hometowns and contact information, encourages their verminous audience to harass the women, then chortles when the women beg or threaten to get the pictures taken down. Moreover, they've added fraud and extortion to that sick cruelty, first with the bogus lawyer "David Blade" offering to get pictures taken down for money, and now with the equally fraudulent "Takedown Hammer" calling themselves an "independent third party team" that will take pictures down for money. Yet they are able to imagine themselves as victims in the affair. It resembles classic mewling sociopathy.

I discovered something a bit disturbing last night. Someone showed me that Chance Trahan puts pictures on the internet showing that he has a very cute young daughter. I'm sure he loves her very much. I'm sure she loves him. Despite the fact that he's wantonly cruel, and a meathead, it would not surprise me at all to learn that he's a doting and tender parent. But somehow Chance Trahan is able to separate, in his mind, that little girl, and her mother, and his mother, and any other women he's ever cared about, from the women being humiliated and abused on "IsAnybodyDown?" He's able to put them in a separate category when his site posts women's phone numbers so people drooling over their pictures can call them incessantly. He's able to but them in separate categories when his site posts mocking posts about takedown requests.

But Chance Trahan's daughter is a human being, with feelings, and so are the people depicted on the site. So let me ask you, Chance: when your daughter is old enough to understand — say, 14 — and she asks you if you are proud of what you did with "Is Anybody Down?" and "The Takedown Lawyer?", how would you respond? If your daughter, as a teen, made a stupid young mistake that too many girls have recently and sent an explicit picture to a boy, and he sent it to a site like yours, would you be able to put that in a separate category, too?

I believe that people generally are not all good or all bad; I believe that "good people" are capable of cruelty and "bad people" capable of kindness. I think we're all broken, which comes out to different degrees. Despite that belief, my own brokenness is sometimes expressed by treating people as all bad — and exposing them to easy and occasionally cruel ridicule — when I write about them on this site. But like Chance, I have children that I love. Just as I can imagine my daughters being victimized by a site like this, I can imagine any of my three children, through their own brokenness, falling into a course of evil and cruelty like Craig and Chance have. I would be disappointed and humiliated but still love them, and would hope that others would still recognize their innate humanity — as I sometimes fail to do in writing about bad behavior on this site. A critic might say that when I write about bad actors on this site, I put them in a different category than myself and my kids, something like (though to a very different agree) Chance does with the women his site abuses. So let me make this clear: I'd be happy to take down this series of posts about Craig and Chance and their fraud and extortion and cruelty if they decide to stop doing what they are doing and spare the women on their site and take down their sites. I still believe that more speech — like this — is one of the best ways to address bad behavior, and that exposing bad actors is effective and appropriate. But I also believe, ultimately, in mercy for people who stop doing evil.

Chance, I recognize you as a fellow father, and human being, in the pictures of you as a proud father with a beautiful little girl. I ask you: look at her, then look at those sites, and make the decision to take them down. I will, in turn, take down these posts, and also apologize to you as a fellow human being for the cheap shots I have taken in the course of exposing what you're doing — because I've done wrong things, too. Craig, I don't know if you have children. But you seem to have a decent family made up of admirable people who have done good things, and I'm sure you love them and they love you. Look at them, and look at your sites, and decide if this makes you proud, and I will do the same.

But if you don't — I won't stop working with Marc Randazza to help the women you're treating that way, and I won't stop talking about your fraud and extortion, and I won't stop fighting you.

Update: I've just read an email exchange between "David Blade" and a victim. Never mind. Murum aries attigit.

Craig Brittain of "Is Anybody Down?" Can't Keep His Story Straight. And It's Barack Obama's Fault.

Yesterday I invited you to join a crowdsourced investigation led by Marc Randazza. In brief: a scummy site called "Is Anybody Down?", a copy of the departed and unlamented "Is Anybody Up?", posts questionably obtained naked pictures of women with their names and hometowns and often their Facebook pages or phone numbers. The troglodytes who hang out there then favor them with comments like these:

You should really consider buying some tits the miracle grow isn't working babe sorry

Damn, poor girl, her reputation / NAME is dirty for life…. Her childrens children will someday see this ! Hopefully she dont go committing suicide & shit

Did anyone call her? phone work?

As Marc documented in a series of posts, "Is Anybody Down?" had a sleazy relationship with "Takedown Laywer" "David Blade III," who purported to be a lawyer who would help you get your picture off of the site for a few hundred bucks. Marc posted convincing evidence, with which I concurred, supporting the conclusions that (1) "David Blade" is not an attorney, (2) there is no "David Blade," and (3) "David Blade" is most likely Craig Brittain himself, who registered both the "Is Anybody Down?" and "Takedown Lawyer" sites. In other words, it's a wire fraud and extortion scheme.

Hilarity ensued. But now Craig Brittain is angry. Very angry. And in addition to Marc Randazza and your ob'nt servant, he knows exactly who is to blame.

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"The Takedown Lawyer": Let's Help Marc Randazza Investigate A Scammer, Shall We?

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!

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