My name and headshot showing up in unauthorized or illegal websites
July 19, 2007 8:24 AM   Subscribe

I'd appreciate some advice - I track myself in google blog search [whatever] and suddenly of late my name has been showing up in two porn sites.

I sent them to my lawyer who said contact cos they've blocked their Whois etc etc ok but now the latest infamy is MY headshot [which is saved as my fullname so it shows up] is showing up on very nasty ethnic pornsites. I haven't even clicked through I feel so sick just from the words that show up around the search. Is there anything I can do to prevent this happening rather than the constant back and forth with very good lawyer who is better served doing better work than chasing this crap down? plus is it possible that I've been targetted for this ? As I've never had a problem in the past two years and then boom 4 in one week?
posted by infini to Computers & Internet (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how you go about fighting this, but I have to wonder.. why does it matter that they're ethnic pornsites?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:27 AM on July 19, 2007

Is it possible they're dynamically generated? Like when you type something like "Somali babies" into google and get:
"Buy Somali Babies NOW on ebay!"?
posted by TomMelee at 8:43 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's wrong but there's probably nothing you can do about it. And it's likely that no one who knows you will ever see it.

If they do, and if they ask, then bitch about it. But they won't ask, because it would mean admitting that they were looking at the sleazy site.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2007

dirtynumbangelboy: because its my ethnicity, so its not like its autogenerated content as TomMelee asks below, but deliberate matching of a race as per my photograph with the pron site that says "HOT XXXRACE BABES here" kind of thing.

So unless the various face matching technologies have caught up with that, it looks like an attempt to defame my good name? Particularly since my ethnic community places a very high value on a woman's good name and reputation. That's why this hurts.

TomMelee: You cannot dynamically match my headshot titled with my full name with autogenerated race specific sites, at least as far as I know, with existing technology.
posted by infini at 8:52 AM on July 19, 2007

SCDB: I hear what you are saying but I have made many friends from those who subscribe to my blog and I know some who use googleblog search to read my latest posts. I am ashamed to ask them if this popped up on their readerviews.
posted by infini at 8:53 AM on July 19, 2007

This is likely OT, but _why_ is this happening?
posted by tcv at 9:13 AM on July 19, 2007

You could "get out in front of it," and post something on your blog along the lines of how you explained it here.
posted by bookley at 9:14 AM on July 19, 2007

If your lawyer can't provide you with the means of finding out who owns the sites, you may need a different lawyer. This is not my forte, but I just can't imagine it's all THAT difficult to trace ownership. You may also want to talk to a lawyer who knows something about copyright -- just because your pictures are on the web doesn't make them open source. I wish I had more concrete advice.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2007

I don't know if there is much you can do about the name, because other people could technically have the same name. The pictures might be easier to deal with, if they are actually hosted on their website and not just on a feed aggregator.

See if there is an e-mail address on the porn site. Usually there will have to be one for people to contact them with billing problems. You can ask them nicely to remove the photos and, if it doesn't happen in a day or two, then you can threaten to contact their hosting provider.

A lot of reputable webhosts (even, yes, adult ones) will make them pull down unauthorized content, especially on a porn site.

If that still doesn't work, I may have another suggestion, but I don't want to post it right away, cause it's sort of shady. But, hey, they were shady first. E-mail me if you want another suggestion or two.
posted by diamondsky at 9:23 AM on July 19, 2007

My lawyer has provided the means for the first two, my question relates to some kind of permanent solution or protecting my headshots - they are not just on my blog but wherever articles written by me are published. You know like how on flickr if you right click on some pictures they show up as "spaceball.gif"? except I don't know how to do that and furthermore is there a way to ask every place which publishes my headshot to protect it?

I can't keep paying my lawyer to chase crap down like this, its like chinese water torture.

as to

This is likely OT, but _why_ is this happening?
posted by tcv

You tell me. I'm not given to inflammatory or obscene writing or commenting. The closest I can think of is plain and simple harassment. As to why would some shithead online want to harass a woman, well if we knew the answer to that half the internet would disappear in a flash wouldn't it?

sorry, snarking isn't going to help.
posted by infini at 9:23 AM on July 19, 2007

It is possible -- from your descriptions thus far -- that you're ascribing to malice something which might just be some web scraping bot gone awry.

My followup question relates to your use of this headshot. It's safe to assume that your name and the picture are connected. Does the page it's on also reference your ethnicity? If so, break that link.

For the record, "I haven't even clicked through" is a brilliant strategy for the outcome known as "I will never find out the answer to this question".

Legally speaking, you don't need the domain owner when you can go after the host. Throw the server's IP address into Whois if you want to find out which host is (probably inadvertently) publishing a defamation.
posted by genghis at 9:36 AM on July 19, 2007

How far up in the hits is this offensive content appearing? I'd expect your blog to appear first in a search on your name...if this isn't showing up until page 2 or 3, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Brian James at 9:42 AM on July 19, 2007

I'm curious - did the picture go out via RSS (was it part of a post), or is it part of the "site furniture" - the static stuff around the edges? (I've been waiting for something like this to get in front of a judge for a while now - RSS is for syndication, and it's kinda hard to stand up and say "but I only wanted the good people to syndicate it").

Genghis has great advice: if the host is in the US I think they'll reflexively pull the site if you send them the correct form letter.
posted by Leon at 9:49 AM on July 19, 2007

With regards to protecting your picture, it's likely a waste of time.

If, as you say, this can't possibly be web-scraping, then there is (literally) absolutely nothing you can do, from a technical stand point.

If you post a picture on a site, people are able to download it. Period. The way Flickr "protects" the image is (I think) by sizing a div with a transparent gif and then setting the background image of the div to be the actual file you want to see.

Firefox comes standard with a "view this background image" and most browsers will allow you to open an info dialog on the page, see a list of all of the "assets", and then download them.

I have seen, although it's been a while, some photographers putting their pictures online in flash or java containers that are immune to screen capture. That seems to have stopped lately in favor of just uploading really low quality images.

So... I guess the short answer is: yes, you can, but it's a huge waste of time... unless this is web-scraping, and then you can probably find a way to keep most nasties away.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

What toomuchpete said. Also, have you contacted Google about having the pages removed from their index?
posted by rhizome at 11:15 AM on July 19, 2007

so, you're upset because you feel this is defaming your character, correct? if that is the case, do as others have suggested and contact the porn site and ask them to take it down. then, write a blog post about "ha ha i'm getting linked to as a pornster, isn't that funny?!?" so people know you haven't suddenly turned to porn (though it seems they wouldn't think that way any way). frankly, i find it highly unlikely that this is intentional maliciousness unless you have enemies who have nothing better to do than upolad pictures to porn sites.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:10 PM on July 19, 2007

leon: I don't know about the picture going out by RSS, it showed up in both my bloglines subscription, which is RSS, to the google blogsearch for keyword "my full name in two words" then to ensure that it wasn't just a random rss feed or keyword usage I went to google blog search where along with the latest posts, writing, whatever these sites are showing up.

As for the internal format on that site itself, sending them the correct form letter and contacting google, my lawyer is already doing the needful for this occurrence. My question was with reference to whether there are any means out there to ensure that it doesn't repeatedly happen again and again.

Thank you toomuchpete for the information. Well the name link to the porn site could be webscraping, my lawyer said that its a compliment really since they wouldn't do it if they didn't think it would bring them traffic. but the headshot is what concerned me because there is no way that you can take a headshot saved as "firstname lastname.jpg" and put it up on a specific racial porn site unless you look at the picture and identify the race to which it belongs.

misanthropicsarah, I couldn't write a post saying "ha ha I'm getting my photo and name up on pornsites" when the rest of my articles/pics are on sites like businessweek, a UN connected site and others which are too industry specific et al - I'm hoping my credibility will carry me through this association due to the absolute illogic of the connection. Why my concern regarding intentional maliciousness arose was due to the tendency of the males in my ethnic community to be possessed of high levels of testorone fuelling their inability to see a woman of their race show up in the kind of locations mentioned above, and I don't mean pr0n. And they've made nasty comments in the comments sections before. The other datapoint here is the sudden appearance of this porn linkage in 4 places in the past week versus NOTHING ever in the 10 years I've been online plus the previous two that I've been blogging/writing.

I can see that posing the question has placed me in an awkward situation where the tradeoff of "protecting" my anonimity by not wishing to give my real name in order for you guys to see the situation for yourself means that I am unable to wholly answer the valid questions that you pose.

One good thing that has come out of this excercise is the realization that I can now quote Gandhi who once said,

"First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win."
~Mahatma Gandhi

perhaps as many of you have advised I should just let it go. I have however changed my headshot on my about page to one where I look more like a bespectacled grinning fool than a female ;p
posted by infini at 12:45 PM on July 19, 2007

toomuchpete: I used to make a hobby of decomposing/scraping those.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:48 PM on July 19, 2007

genghis: Yes, I went and looked, where my headshot is located some of the titles of my articles refer to the country of origin - but there is no mention in my bio. I guess I'm going to have to change the titles of already published articles in msm that I've listed on my about page to break any link to racial origin. Thank you for the suggestion.
posted by infini at 12:52 PM on July 19, 2007

dammit that's not fair ; I can't do that without harming my own credentials. @##$%$%% meh let it be. there's a funny side to this situation and I'm sure I'll see it in the morning...
posted by infini at 12:55 PM on July 19, 2007

I apologize for asking the question, infini. I just find it inconceivable. I'm nearly 37 and have been "online" since 1984 and I honestly can not remember a single instance of my wanting to put a headshot of a random woman in an adult entertainment venue. I can't see the rationalization nor can I see how it came to be you in particular.

Is it possible someone you know is doing this to you?

Sorry. I'm probably making it worse.
posted by tcv at 2:08 PM on July 19, 2007

That really sucks. My first instinct would be to create as many not-porn links about yourself as possible to at least hide the bad ones. Then a casual search won't bring up your full name on a bad site. I've also heard of a company called ReputationDefender that helps with these kinds of situations. Might be worth contacting them too?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2007

tcv: I am hoping not.

tdevildl: I'll check the website out, thanks. and that's a good point, at least it doesn't show on the first three pages on google search
posted by infini at 3:32 PM on July 19, 2007

Just to defend the OP as to why someone would do this, I think she's probably just an attractive women of the ethnicity that this porn site is looking to "sell", who's headshot is out there and available and some porn monger probably came across it. Just wanted to say that to point out the "why" probably isn't a deliberate or malicious attack, although I certainly understand her concerns about her ethnic community perhaps backlashing as it seems like she might be acting "non-traditionally" for a female or whatever.

Anyway, I think it was a great idea to change your headshot to a more nerdy one (although it really pisses me off morally that you need to do that in order to protect yourself from things like this- what the hell?! I hate being a woman sometimes...). Also, I definitely wouldn't do a blog post, not just for the reasons you listed above but also because you don't want to add fuel to fire. I'm no PR expert, but it seems to me like people avoid false scandals by not dignifying them with a reponse and letting them blow over on their own. I'm sure anyone familiar with your work or with you personally knows that those pictures aren't of you (and it's quite common for porn sites to paste heads onto different bodies, so no one's going to fall for it unless they want to). :)
posted by thejrae at 4:10 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your picture is copyrighted by you (or you hired someone to take it, and they hold copyright or signed it over to you).

If the hosting company (the company the porn site pays to host the porn website) is located in the US, have your lawyer draft a DMCA take-down notice, have him send it to the hosting company. The host will almost certainly take down the picture or even the whole site, making it a real hassle for the porno site to keep your picture up. The pornographers will probably conclude it's easier to stop using your picture than to change hosts.

You can probably find out the webhost pretty simply, by doing a whois and finding the "Name server"/"Domain server" line.

You may also be able to sue the pornographers for copyright infringement or defamation or even intentional infliction of emotional distress, but I am not a lawyer and you should consult a lawyer about this. In particular, if someone in the future questions why your picture used to be on a porn site, you can happily explained "it was stolen from my professional site, and I sued".
posted by orthogonality at 5:16 PM on July 19, 2007

(No one before me suggested a DMCA take-down notice? I'm surprised.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:18 PM on July 19, 2007

orthogonality: having done the DMCA thing on a number of occasions, it did come to mind, but she's already got a lawyer, and it didn't really sound like she needed help getting it taken down.

Probably why nobody else put up the DMCA stuff.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:25 PM on July 19, 2007

Your lawyer advised you to take this racist and sexist appropriation of your image as a compliment?

posted by Sallyfur at 6:09 PM on July 19, 2007

I'd guess that some idiot saw your picture and just reused it because your pretty and of the ethnicity they required. It sounds like your a business professional and I'd imagine the last thing you'd want is a client/customer/colleague to recognise you via the pic on the porn site.

Could you be targeted? Who knows, maybe someone is annoyed at you, but I'd suspect some fool who copied your pic and never renamed it when they cropped the image and hence your name popping up. But, be paranoid anyway!

>and then boom 4 in one week?
Maybe they just made it into Google's index recently, or someone who owns all the sites started using your pic recently.

I'm not sure how you'd stop this from happening again, but I'd suggest not posting a pic, posting poor quality pics, or pics that are so small no-one will want to reuse them.

But, I know I'd be pissed off if someone started using my picture, especially on friggin' pron site.
posted by zaphod at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2007

Your lawyer advised you to take this racist and sexist appropriation of your image as a compliment?

posted by Sallyfur 5 ΒΌ hours ago

no, not the pic, the earlier usage of my name as the title of the porn page. late last year my name was used a google ad word by another consultant for his website so its not like we've not had that problem before but this was pr0n and sick not just diversion of googlejuice.
posted by infini at 11:35 PM on July 19, 2007

Is it possible you share the name (maybe only one name, possibly misspelled?) of a porn star? That would be the only reason I can think of for a porn site scraping for photos labeled with your name. This is one of several reasons not to save photos with your name as the filename.

there is no way that you can take a headshot saved as "firstname lastname.jpg" and put it up on a specific racial porn site unless you look at the picture and identify the race to which it belongs

...unless there is a porn star of your ethnicity who happens to share your name, or you happen to have an ethnically-specific name.
posted by Reggie Digest at 6:03 AM on July 20, 2007

racist and sexist appropriation of your image

How is it either of those things?
posted by toomuchpete at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2007

How is it either of those things? At the risk of derailing, OP was targeted for non-consensual, public sexual attention specifically because of her race and because of her sex. This is the Internet equivalent of a woman being catcalled while trying to peacefully walk down the sidewalk.

That being said, another legal angle to pursue is that everyone, including celebrities, own their personal image with regards to commercial purposes. So, you might be able to invoke your right of publicity as well as copyright, defamation and/or distress. IANAL.
posted by Skwirl at 5:24 AM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Since it's been days since there have been activity on this thread I think it'd be pretty hard to derail it.

Racism, noun
  1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
  2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
  3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Sexism, noun
  1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
  2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women.
Sorry, just not seeing it.

The victimization of a minority isn't automatically racism, and the victimization of a woman isn't automatically sexism.

I don't think she was targeted because she was a woman or because she's a member of a particular ethnic group. I think she was probably targeted because she's attractive and/or well known, and it would've happened regardless of her sex or ethnicity.

Then again, even if she was chosen because she's a woman of a particular ethnic group I still don't think it rises to the level of racism or sexism unless there's some sort of ill-will involved.

That doesn't make it right, but let's not over-state things, and (more to my original point) let's not look down our noses at the attorney because he's not hypersensitive. I'd guess that if the OP were able to take her attorney's advice and take it as a compliment (while simultaneously trying to stop it) she'd feel a lot better.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2007

Hey guys :) My lawyer rocks! He NEVER implied what the commenter above interpreted from my original comment. My lawyer is probably the last person to make any such comment, he was very clear about the compliment - that my brand would draw traffic to the site, that my implied googlejuice was the reason for the misappropriation of my image and name, Not my race or gender - in his own way he was doing exactly what toomuchpete says above, trying to make me feel better about this happening. That it was more to do with the traffic that the name might bring than anything personal to my race or gender.
posted by infini at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2007

to clarify: I was the one wondering if I was targetted rather than it being an automated bot scraping because of the ethnic match to the picture, and that question was well answered above. I guess I just never think of myself as an attractive woman ;p I'm too busy being a geek with my head stuck in a large scale systems design project.
posted by infini at 9:56 AM on July 22, 2007

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