Personal Information Posted Without Permission
December 24, 2010 11:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm a massage therapist whose contact information and professional credentials were posted, without my permission or knowledge, on an erotic services site. How do I get my ad taken down?

I recently got my massage therapist's license in the state I just moved to. I've been practicing for a few weeks now. Recently I found out that my legit massage ad had been posted on an erotic site. Infuriating, as it contains my contact information and license number and I'm suddenly having to field inappropriate calls, and confusing as the ad (as exactly reproduced from a legitimate site I posted on) does not in the least vaguely imply that I'd do erotic massage, nor does it include pictures of me.

I contacted the actual site itself,, and received an auto-reply that no one is in the office between Dec 22 and Dec 28th. I contacted the abuse email at their host,, and have received no reply. Meanwhile, my professional reputation is in jeopardy and I'm being actively misrepresented against my will. If I Google the email address I had been using for my business, the very first search result is for the page on NaughtyNW. But I can't get it removed from Google until I get it removed from the site itself, according to the Google Help section.

My questions: What is my next step? I cannot afford a lawyer, not even a short consultation with one. And anyone have any idea how/why this happened? Is there some sort of cross-posting happening here? The legit ad I posted was on, which seems to be affiliated with NaughtyNW.
posted by parrot_person to Law & Government (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wait four days until their office reopens. Nothing is going to happen between now and then. They'll probably take down the misfiled ad, Google will forget all about it, and you'll be fine.
posted by zippy at 11:23 PM on December 24, 2010

Look into legal aid. If your income is low enough, you might qualify. (Legal aid offers free legal help to low-income persons.)
posted by J. Wilson at 11:26 PM on December 24, 2010

I am not yet a lawyer and this is definitely not legal advice.

If I were in your shoes -- and I were really intent on not consulting a lawyer -- then I'd google something like "cease and desist letter template defamation" or "cease and desist letter template right of publicity". Note that I have not performed those google searches; I don't think a cease and desist letter alone is most likely going to solve this, though it's probably worth a shot; and I don't know whether or not there's a right of publicity in your state.

I would also (1) complain to in case they have leverage with their affiliate, and (2) rethink whether the costs of a lawyer really exceed the costs of damage to your professional reputation.
posted by foursentences at 11:27 PM on December 24, 2010

as exactly reproduced from a legitimate site I posted on

OK, IANAL, so this might be a bit of a stretch, but could this be enough for a DMCA takedown notice? Those are legally required to be dealt with in 48 hours.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:31 PM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug: "could this be enough for a DMCA takedown notice?"

I have professors who would happily give you points for clever legal acrobatics like that. Worth a shot?
posted by foursentences at 11:36 PM on December 24, 2010

Do you belong to a professional organization? They might have free legal aid for members.
posted by fshgrl at 11:48 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite] and seem to be literally the same site--same database, same subnet, etc.--just presenting different views of the data. Search NaughtyNW for massage, and you'll see that the database IDs are identical, and all your competitors on TheStranger have the exact same issue. Perhaps there's some comfort in knowing you're not alone. Also, you'd be surprised how many computer geeks are checking their work email on Christmas, so if your note to NaughtyNW gets their attention, maybe this will work out quickly.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:48 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug: "Those are legally required to be dealt with in 48 hours."

I bet that's 48 business hours.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:52 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The law just says 48 hours. And it's not really a stretch. The ad is copyrighted, so of course you can send a DMCA take-down notice. They are used for things like this all the time.
posted by delmoi at 11:59 PM on December 24, 2010

The ad is copyrighted

It depends. Is it a simple statement of facts, or an expression with some degree of choice and creativity? If it's just your name and the fact that you provide massages and your phone number, I do not think that would be copyrightable, in the same way that your name or phone number or address are not copyrightable. If you have a few sentences describing your practice, then, sure.

posted by zippy at 12:04 AM on December 25, 2010

The OP doesn't need to have a winning copyright claim. The OP needs only to startle the site into taking down the ad.
posted by foursentences at 12:44 AM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

If it helps, I don't think the lasting effects vis a vis search engines or your online reputation are going to be as profound as you think. You're searching for your e-mail address, which is good when you want to find where you're being quoted and mentioned, but that's not how your (legit) customers are going to find you. They're going to type in something like "massage therapy seattle" or the like, and if they're not looking for happy endings, they'll ignore the results like "naughtynw"

This is really quite extraordinary - I looked at the stranger, and sure enough, they have a series of classified ad links at the bottom, most of which refer to other parts of the stranger, and then the "escorts" link goes to naughtynw. The stranger site otherwise seems like your normal community newspaper.

I don't see how you could have known in advance, but now you do - this is where they think massage therapists belong? Or would an accountant have also been treated to a cross-post in naughtynw? Goes without saying, but I'd cancel and get them to immediately take down BOTH ads.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:21 AM on December 25, 2010

Seconding Monsieur Caution: they're using the same back end database. If this just started happening recently, they probably did something that changed or lost a site-specifier in each record.

If you can call them up and find their internal tech support number, they may have some DBA on call.

I don't think this is going to impact you for the few days it will be up. It's not just you, it's their entire classified ad database. For example, here's a nice apartment on

Here's the same apartment, (only...naughtier?):

Notice the same "oid", and how doesn't use and display all the rent information pulls out.

In the application security world, this would be a good answer to the question "why do you want to use a separate database or tablespace for each application?"
posted by graftole at 7:57 AM on December 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

parrot_person, if it's true the same thing is happening to other massage therapists who list with The Stranger, I'd suggest emailing those other massage therapists. A deluge of furious email is more likely to provoke a rapid response than a single complaint.
posted by endless_forms at 9:21 AM on December 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you modify your add on The Stranger to implicitly state that you do NOT offer any erotic massage services? Maybe it'll copy over to the Naughty site.
posted by matty at 10:59 AM on December 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Call the police.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:20 AM on December 25, 2010

Can you modify your add on The Stranger to implicitly state that you do NOT offer any erotic massage services? Maybe it'll copy over to the Naughty site.

That's a great idea.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:26 AM on December 25, 2010

I think sending legal threats is needlessly hostile. It does look like both are run by the Stranger, and their staff, by all accounts, seem like decent folks. I agree that the world won't end in the next four days, and I would just ask them to deal with it when they get back.
posted by andrewpendleton at 11:36 AM on December 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. I did get it taken down, but I don't know who did it for me. I had complained to several places, and then suddenly the ad was just not there anymore. No one ever replied saying they'd taken it down, and The Stranger's position was to tell me I must have posted in the erotic services section.

I was amazed to see the links graftole posted, and to know that other people were dealing with the same issue. I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse. My immediate problem was solved because the ad was taken down and there is, as far as I can tell, no trace of it anymore. But this is such an unacceptable way of doing things on The Stranger's part. I will consider trying to contact other massage therapists to see if I can get The Stranger to take this issue more seriously.

As for the suggestion to modify my legit ad, I took the legit ad down entirely. I don't trust The Stranger anymore as a venue.
posted by parrot_person at 3:13 AM on January 7, 2011

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