‘How I Sued a Craigslist Sex Troll’

It's been nearly three years, but one victim has finally successfully sued an infamous Craigslist prankster who published the private emails received in response to a fake sex ad.

Now for the first time, the court's "John Doe" has agreed to tell his own side of the story. "The message is in the fact that a lawsuit is indeed possible based on privacy issues," says the victim, "and those considering similar behavior as Fortuny are advised to consider that fact."

In September of 2006, Jason Fortuny posted a personal ad on Craigslist pretending to be a woman seeking kinky sex — and then published sexy pictures and complete emails he received, including any names and phone numbers, from over 150 men. "[T]he chorus of blog posts saying 'someone ought to sue him' gave me some satisfaction to being able to do just that," says Doe, "on behalf of those who wished for justice in this matter."

"IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED," wrote Judge Joan B. Gottschall 30 months later — handing down $74,252.56 in legal fines to Fortuny. Three law firm associates had spent 129.2 hours (at $175 per hour) litigating his 2006 Craigslist prank, plus another 35 hours by the main attorney billed at $275 per hour. As part of the judge's award, Fortuny will have to pay all their legal fees — a total of $32,365.50 — and he'll even end up paying the extra costs accrued because he avoided their process servers.

"I hope that it demonstrates that claims (and attorneys) do exist that enable victims to pursue those who commit wrongful acts," says the victim's lawyer, Charles Mudd.

Jason Fortuny
"Whenever I questioned 'why bother doing this', I just re-read the posts where Fortuny was taunting the victims who begged him to remove their information," says victim John Doe, "and that renewed my resolve." In the end, Fortuny's stubbornness is what led them to court. "He publicly demonstrated his unwillingness to negotiate with others, so I knew that only a hardball response would be effective and that direct contact with him would be a waste of time and tip him off to my plans."

Ironically, Fortuny was only fined $5,000 for "public disclosure of private facts" and "intrusion upon seclusion." The remaining bulk of the award — $35,001 — was for violating the plaintiff's copyright. "The Copyright Act provides for statutory damages from $750 to $35,000 per infringed work," says Mudd, but those damages "can exceed $35,000 up to an amount of $150,000 per infringed work where the conduct was willful." This means that ultimately, it was Fortuny's own "willful" conduct that increased the price he'd eventually have to pay, Mudd argues. "In general, Mr. Fortuny could have limited the amount of damages under the Copyright Act and could have significantly reduced the amount of attorney's fees throughout the course of this matter.

"He chose not to do so."

Judgment Day

Fortuny initially argued that the suit against him was "abusing the intent of copyright law, stretching the common law terms of privacy, using unverified e-mail as alternative process, and side stepping personal jurisdiction." Last summer Fortuny wrote an eight-page letter informing the judge that "I do not have the resources for legal proceedings in another state, much less the exorbitant attorney fees for a Federal copyright case." But John Doe's lawyer points out that Fortuny didn't have to appear in person, and seemed genuinely surprised by the lackluster fight that Fortuny put up.

Judge Gottschall rejected Fortuny's only other response — a "motion to dismiss" — writing that "It appears that the defendant filed the documents in the wrong courthouse." (The court's rules also required a "notice of service" which Fortuny failed to provide.) By the time Fortuny's motion reached the right court, Judge Gottschall had already entered a default judgment against him. "My firm and the Plaintiff provided Fortuny every opportunity to vacate the default," says attorney Mudd, but after several months with no response, the case had moved forward.

"The foregoing being said, I would have welcomed the opportunity to address the claims on the merits."

Fortuny's victim acknowledges that "The judge's verdict was just a formality based on the rules. Fortuny lost this on procedural grounds." But there's still a lesson in his legal experience...

Fortuny's prank became a symbol for unapologetic online "griefing," and last August, the New York Times wrote Fortuny "might be the closest thing this movement of anonymous provocateurs has to a spokesman." Fortuny told the Times he knew two victims had lost their jobs over his prank. "Am I the bad guy?" Fortuny asked rhetorically in the interview. "Am I the big horrible person who shattered someone’s life with some information? No! This is life. Welcome to life. Everyone goes through it. I’ve been through horrible stuff, too."

A Seattle newscast reported one man responded with a picture
exposing himself in his cubicle where he worked — Microsoft —
adding "That man got fired."

But John Doe was determined to fight back.

The Victim's Story

On that day in 2006, Doe was alerted to his sexy picture being published online — first via an anonymous tip-off, and then helpful pointers from two of his friends, according to documents filed in the case. He'd quickly deleted his photo from the Wiki-like page at Encyclopedia Dramatica — only to see it re-appearing there later (and with future deletions disabled). "Through legal counsel, Plaintiff requested that Encyclopedia Dramatica remove Plaintiff's Private Response, Copyrighted Photograph and personal email address from the Fortuny Experiment," reads the case filing.

It adds that Encyclopedia Dramatica complied with Plaintiff's request, but then Jason Fortuny himself grabbed the picture, and re-published it on his own site. It was then that the angry victim sent Fortuny a DMCA notice, arguing that the photograph was copyrighted.

"I initially sought to protect my privacy and leave it at that," Doe told us this week. "Fortuny opposed my actions to remove my personal information, and so I was left with no choice but to take additional legal action against him."

One internet rumor says the plaintiff must've luckily had a friend who was a lawyer, but that's not true, says Doe's attorney. "Neither I nor anyone at my firm knew of or communicated with the Plaintiff prior to the Craigslist Experiment." But he adds that "The case was well researched and on solid legal footing, and we had every reason to expect a favorable ruling on merit."

Fortuny's prank may have struck 149 other victims, but John Doe was different. "I had the personal resources and was at liberty to risk additional publicity," Doe says, "unlike apparently all the other victims. Fortuny miscalculated in that regard as he assumed no one could either afford the legal costs nor take the personal risk to oppose him.

"This was a miscalculation that was perhaps not clear to him until a long time after I began the process."

Doe's photo was removed — temporarily — but by the end of the month, the photo was back on Fortuny's site yet again, along with the text of the original sexy email message. Fortuny had filed a counter-notification disputing the copyrighted status of the photo. "The counter notification basically says 'you're a liar liar pants on fire'," Fortuny explained on his blog, "and adds that if you don't respond within 14 days, I get to put my shit back up."

The incident occurred back in September of 2006, and the first summons to Fortuny was issued 18 months later — over a year ago, in February of 2008. "For personal reasons I let some time pass before pulling the trigger on the lawsuit," the victim says, and even then it took more than four months before the executed summons was finally returned. "We had advised Fortuny that we reserved the right to take this up again at our convenience, and I suppose he mistook that for a bluff." The lawsuit acknowledged that after nearly two years, the photo and email were still displayed on Fortuny's site.

And to this day, nearly 100 of the original photos, remain online at Encyclopedia Dramatica. (Caution: link is not safe for work.)

This wasn't Fortuny's first brush with the courts. One of our readers contacted us with a list of Fortuny's other past legal skirmishes — including three municipal court citations for "no driver's license on person" in 1999, 2001, and 2002, as well as a 2004 citation for driving without proof of insurance. But looking at the judge's decision today, Doe sees a larger message. "Beyond the goal of protecting my own privacy, there was a broader 'civic' aspect to this case," he notes, "which was motivating for me and of particular note motivating for my attorney. Fortuny maliciously harmed a lot of people by his actions, and he made the point of bragging about how he was toying with the efforts of those who attempted to deal with him directly.

"It was sad to watch this happen, and it furthered my resolve to act as the 'adult on the playground' and respond to this bully on behalf of all his victims in spirit anyway."

But there's another lesson in the incident — and ironically, it comes from the Craigslist sex troll himself — via the lawyer who prosecuted the case against him. "I believe Fortuny himself sent the message for users of the Internet through the Craigslist Experiment — beware what you read online," says Charles Mudd, "and think several times before communicating personal information through electronic mail to anyone.

"Especially someone you have never met."

See Also:
20 Funniest Reactions to the Fortuny Verdict
Jason Fortuny Responds to Lawsuit
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook
In the Company of Jerkoffs

20 Funniest Reactions to the Jason Fortuny Verdict

His blog at RFJason.com disappeared, and one anonymous Livejournal comment claims that "he hasn't made contact with anyone for weeks. Even his accomplices don't know what's going on." (Though his personal blog at LiveJournal is still up — with its old tagline "Getting away with everything you can only dream of.")

But now that a judge ordered Jason Fortuny to pay $74,252.56 in various legal fines —what's the internet's final verdict? Was Fortuny's Craigslist prank instructive, malicious — or a little bit of both?

Here's the 20 funniest reactions.


"Why do I hear Aretha singing 'Dancin in the streets'? ;-) Honestly this should be declared an international holiday or something."

      — Livejournal blogger Mrs-Ralph


"trolls are getting sued now? what is the world coming to"

      — Livejournal user Kassichu


"This is what happens when you don't put out like you imply you will."

      — Livejournal user Demure


"I love when reality collides with LiveJournal. It's like a super nova exploding."

      — Livejournal user Katastrophic


"Don't worry about lawsuits. They won't happen."

      — Jason Fortuny, October, 2006


"If he was a TRULY great troll, he would have done it all anonymously. As it is, he's pretty much in the same position as those dudes who sent him pics... ...consequences got back to him. That's life."

      — Livejournal user Yhanthlei


"Well, it's not like the plaintiff won on the merits of the case, if that makes you feel better. He only won because the troll didn't show up to some meetings. Happens all the time in civil court."

      — Livejournal user Nandexdame


"A legal 'appearance' does not mean that Fortuny had to physically appear in Court initially. Rather, he had to properly file the appropriate documents in the correct court.

"Mr. Fortuny failed to do so."

      — Charles Mudd, the lawyer in the successful lawsuit


"If you are 13 or older you should expect naked explicit pictures of your ass to show up on the internet. this is 2009 America, after all."

      — A possibly-sarcastic commenter responding to Dan Savage


"i'm going to send nude pics of myself to an anonymous ad on craigslist what could possibly go wrong."

      — Livejournal user Kassichu


"It's like a stupidity contest, except the winner gets to pay ~$75k."

      — Livejournal user Derumi


"You don't have to feel sorry for him to recognize that the law is on his side here. Fortuny behaved wrongfully, and now he's suffering the consequences."

      — Magicgospelman


"Let's hug."

      — Livejournal user Girlvinyl


"The amount seems a high and random but really 'I did it for the lulz' shouldn't be a valid reason for fucking with someones life. I kind of wonder if there would have been a difference reaction if the guy had targeted a different group [than] male doms."

      — Livejournal user Muilti-factedg


"I take it back. You might get sued if you do a Craigslist Experiment..."

      —Jason Fortuny on his blog last summer


1. Trolls being sued is ridiculous
2. That doesn't make this any less funny

      — Livejournal user Layiliyal


"Contrary to what some people here want to believe, the Internet is not a lawless libertarian wonderland where you can do whatever the fuck you want without legal consequences. ....If you do these things with the goal of fucking with people, you shouldn't be surprised when they fight back."

      — Livejournal user Magicgospelman


"Can you blame him?"
"Not really."

      — Jason Fortuny
         responding to a TV news interviewer last summer.

See Also:
How I Sued a Craigslist Sex Troll
Jason Fortuny Responds to Lawsuit
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook
In the Company of Jerkoffs

Researcher Finds Bad Sex Information Online

There's a problem with sexual information from the top medical web sites.

It's wrong.

"Even widely trusted sites like WebMD are not that accurate when it comes to adolescent reproductive health," says Dr. Sophia Yen, a Stanford University Med School instructor in Adolescent Medicine. She conducted an online review last summer and concluded many of the web sites weren't just incomplete — they were often wrong, wrong, wrong.

For example, weight gain isn't a side effect of birth control pills — but 60% of the reviewed sites claimed that it was. (And three sites even claimed, incorrectly, that IUDs should only be used by women who had already had children.) In fact, 40% of the web sites actually contradicted the guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on PAP exams, mistakenly recommending the tests every time women change sexual partners or as soon as they turn 18. "Extra Pap exams are an unnecessary stress and expense, and a barrier to getting birth control," Yen says — since some teenagers may postpone birth control if they mistakenly believe it will first require a Pap exam.

With undergraduate researcher Alisha Tolani, Yen reported her results in March to the annual meeting of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, concluding that web sites "don't always incorporate changes to policy or to clinical recommendations that have occurred within the past five years." Between July and August, Yen's team performed a detailed assessment of the sexual health information online, a process she describes in an online video. "We did a Google search for phrases such as birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, emergency contraception, and IUDs, and looked at which web sites were the top 10 to 15 that came up on each of these topics." They cross-checked their list against Alexa's reports of U.S.-based traffic — but were still disappointed by the information they discovered. For example, "about half of the Web sites, including such highly trafficked destinations as Wikipedia and Mayoclinic.com, failed to provide accurate, complete information about emergency contraception," according to the study announcement by Stanford's School of Medicine.

Emergency contraception has been available over-the-counter since 2006 for people over 18, but 29% of the web sites Yen checked failed to mention this fact. She discovered 16 of the 34 sites correctly stated this information, but then failed to mention that in nine states it's also available over-the-counter without any age restrictions. And Yen also faults 10 of the 34 sites for failing to correct a common misconception — that emergency contraception is identical to the RU-486 abortion pill.

Stanford Researcher Sophia Yen
And it's not just teenagers that misunderstand the information. Yen cites one study which determined that 45% of newspapers confused emergency contraception (which prevents pregnancy from occurring) with RU-486, a pill which triggers an abortion after pregnancy occurs. Possibly because of this, 31% of teenagers now wrongly believe that emergency contraception induces an abortion, according to studies cited by Yen — while another 35% of adolescents have never even heard of emergency contraception.

And Yen found that many web sites also failed to include the latest guidelines from the World Health Organization about Plan B emergency contraception. (The group recommends that the pills be taken as soon as possible after sex, adding that the latest they can be effective is five days after intercourse.)

Yen's interest stems from her work as a pediatrics instructor at Stanford's medical school, and as a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. In fact, the hospital's chief of adolescent medicine added a statement to the announcement. "Making the transition between childhood and adulthood can be tough on teenagers," said Neville Golden, MD, noting that teenagers have many questions about sexual health. "That's why Dr. Yen's research is so important.

"She has demonstrated that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation on the Web."

But do adolescents get their sex information the web? Yes. Yen cites two studies by the PEW research center plus a 2003 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which determined that approximately 25% of teens acquire "some or a lot" of their sexual health information from the internet.

And though more than half of teenagers mistakenly thought they were immune to herpes if they were only kissing, this wasn't addressed by 69% of the web sites studied. (Only nine of 29 pages about STDs explained that herpes could be transmitted through kissing.) It's just one more example of ways health sites are failing their teenaged readers. "No studies have investigated the extent to which these myths exist and are perpetuated on the internet," Yen argues in her findings, adding that in the last five years, "several notable changes to policy and clinical recommendations have occurred."

Yen recommends that teenagers see a physician who specializes in adolescent medicine, and seek web sites reviewed by similar specialists (like the web sites associated with academic medical centers). She recommends Go Ask Alice, a question-and-answer service from Columbia University, the Center for Young Women's Health by the Children's Hospital Boston, TeensHealth by KidsHealth.org, and Planned Parenthood's Teen Wire. And she also recommends the book Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Ultimately, she suggests web sites "should consider more frequent reviews by health practitioners to contain accurate information consistent with such changes." She also has some advice for doctors — "be aware of myths on 'reputable health websites' and actively debunk them in clinical settings." And finally, she has some advice for teenagers.

"Be cautious about finding sexual health answers on the Web."

See Also:
Top Six Inaccurate Sex Facts on the Web
The D.C. Madam Speaks
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out

Top Six Inaccurate Sex Facts on the Web

Dr. Sophia Yen, a Stanford University Medical School instructor, believes the following six medical facts about sex are the ones most often overlooked or reported incorrectly by medical sites on the web.

1. Emergency Contraception is available over the counter.
In most states that's for women over the age of 18, but by early May of 2009, that age will drop to 17. And in nine states, it's already available without any age restrictions.

New Hampshire
New Mexico

2. Emergency contraception doesn't cause an abortion.
It's not RU-486 — it's a way to prevent pregnancy from occurring.

3. IUDS are safe for adolescents

4. Birth control pills won't make you gain weight.
"You know, maybe one in a thousand may gain weight," says Dr. Yen, but in general the research shows people do not gain weight on birth control pills."

5. PAP smears aren't necessary until women turn 21.
Or until three years after women become sexually active. (Unless they're HIV-positive or have a suppressed immune system.)

6. Herpes can be transmitted by kissing.

Click here for our article about the study

Will ‘The Hunt for Gollum’ Satisfy True Fans?

The Hunt for Gollum

Hardcore Lord of the Rings nerds will get a little somethin'-somethin' on Sunday to help them through the Middle Earth drought until Jackson's production of The Hobbit is released.

But let's be real. This internet-only production isn't a "fan film." Rather, it's a vehicle for a crew of young, talented Hollywood wannabes to break into the industry by showing their chops.

It's true, the flick could end up being as badly-written and poorly-acted as your average fan film, but it's not likely. And in any case, the production values completely deprive the audience the pleasure of audio-visual comic fail should it turn out to be otherwise unwatchable. The trailer proves that.

There is further evidence that this is a professional endeavor, not an amateur one.

The lead actor who plays Aragorn, Adrien Webster (who claims to be a devout "fan," as do all of the 150 volunteer crew-members) was pressed to provide some nerd credentials so that the audience didn't feel it was being exploited.

"I don't think we're exploiting anything," said Webster. "I'm actually Viggo Mortenson's evil twin."

But, while we have no doubt that the guy makes a convincing Ranger, what could he offer in the way of story details from the LOTR appendices that the plot's allegedly drawn from — something to indicate a real depth of love for the mythology that would show he's anything more than a casual cinema-goer like so many "fans"? Not much. (He couldn't even give us a good nerd joke from on-set.)

"I think it does follow more closely to the books in terms of timeline," Webster said. "The movie deals with Aragorn's search for Gollum after Gandalf has charged him with this task. It allows us to show more of Aragorn the Ranger."

Well, yeah, but we read that on the movie's website, dude.

From an interview with the film's writer-director, Chris Bouchard:
It's all written in the appendices of the books, where he tells of what Aragorn and Gollum got up to before the trilogy began. Last May I took elements from that story and didn't even have to fill in many gaps before I had a 25-page script. It worked like a short episode — an additional chapter of the Peter Jackson trilogy... Above all I was so inspired by Peter Jackson's trilogy. And jealous that he got to make it first! I loved the scale, the quality, the epic scope of it all and figured, hey, maybe we can do that too.

The filmmakers do seem unaware that the chapter in Fellowship of the Ring titled, "The Council of Elrond," includes Gandalf's report to the Council regarding Gollum — his capture, imprisonment, and escape from the elves of Mirkwood.

"Hunt" film editor Lewis Albrow claims in his bio on the crew page that he read The Hobbit when he was seven and LOTR when he was 11, but then — what's this? — "he skipped past much of The Council of Elrond"!

Gandalf's report on Gollum is omitted from Jackson's film adaptation.

It's pretty clear that crafting a traditional, if low-budget, piece of cinema was the driving factor in making this film. This is supported by the fact that Bouchard's been occupying his time in recent years making independent, low-budget zombie movies, not learning Elvish or arguing online about whether Tolkien was a racist.

As for the legal status of the project, Bouchard has said that he's been in contact with the Tolkien estate and that they were OK with it, though his movie's disclaimer says otherwise. (It warns that The Hunt for Gollum "is in no way affiliated with, or sponsored or approved, by Tolkien Enterprises, the heirs or estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. or any of their respective affiliates or licensees…")

And while the overt visual mimicry of Jackson's films raises obvious questions about dilution of trademark and other legal vagueness surrounding fan fiction, it's also clear that, with such a non-profit, online-only film, the rights-holders have very few options. The film is finished and loaded into the chamber. Regardless of any legal victories by those who might want to stop the release of this thing, it only takes one anonymous finger to pull the trigger and fire it around the world in an instant.

"I'm just saying my prayers and eating my vitamins brother," actor Webster told us. "I haven't been involved too much with the legal side of things."

Any publicity would only guarantee a larger audience. And a more general audience would likely be made up of folks who are even less able to distinguish between a New Line Cinema release and an "amateur" fansploitation effort.

How precious.

See Also:
Neil Gaiman has Lost his Clothes
When Cory Doctorow Ruled the World
Lost 'Horrors' Ending Found on YouTube
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays
Is The Net Good for Writers