Miami Cross Blogination: The Morality and Legality of the Craigslist Sex Baiting Prank

[This Miami Cross Blogination posting is by Gus Moore of Miami Beach 411.]

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman. Class is now in session. I am very happy to be with you today, substituting for Professor Froomkin. The subject of today’s session is: Did the Craigslist Sex Baiting Prank Break the Law?

By now I am sure many of you are familiar with Jason Fortuny’s sex baiting prank at Craiglsit. For those who are not, I brought along the cliff notes (warning: not safe for work):

"Last Monday Seattle resident Jason Fortuny carried out a thought experiment into reality — one I think anyone who has surfed Craigslist sex ads has entertained. He took a hardcore Women Seeking Men ad from another city and reposted it to see how many replies he could get in 24 hours. Then he published every single response — photos, emails, IM info, phone numbers, names, everything, to a public wiki. Then they went public on Jason’s LiveJournal page calling it The Craigslist Experiment, inviting readers to identify the CL ad’s responders.

"(…) Since then Jason has had *his* private info published to CL and been threatened physically, threatened with lawsuits, and has been hated on by everyone from online BDSM communities to Wired. Wired called him "sociopathic" while commenters are saying things like "Disclosing an email to the public is indeed a violation of privacy, and if anyone has a spine, they will take you down with a massive lawsuit that will make you regret ever doing this. You are a liar, a xenophobe, and deserve to have your ass beaten to within an inch of your life."

The story went viral, getting posted all over the web.

The prank has people divided; some cheer Mr. Fortuny for outing these sexual deviants, while others want to tar and feather him.

In my opinion, what Mr. Fortuny did was wrong. He could have performed the same experiment without violating people’s privacy by blacking out the subjects contact information and identifying pictures.

It does teach us a lesson – be careful about what you share with strangers.

TIP: If you don’t want your "business" posted all over the internet, then don’t email it to people that you don’t know.

My questions for the class are:

1. Did Jason Fortuny break the law?
2. Is publishing an email illegal?
3. Is The Craigslist experiment a 2257 violation? A commenter at Threadwatch.org thinks it might be:

"But the biggest issue he could fall into is the fact that posting nude images online without proper 2257 documentation is illegal. You can’t post nude images online in the US without proof that the individual is 18 years of age or older. A single offense could be a fine of $25,000 and up to 5 years in jail."

In summation, after carefully reviewing the statute, it looks to me like this prank fits the criteria for a privacy tort claim.

There may be some Discourse.net readers more qualified to answer the legalities of this than I.

Heck, who am I kidding? I’m not an attorney. I’m just a substitute for the day. Discussing Miami travel is my thing. Professor Froomkin was just nice enough to invite me to hang out with you. I don’t know anything about Privacy Torts and 2257.

So, I will take this opportunity to learn what the class thinks.

Was this prank illegal? Will these dumbasses victims be awarded civil damages? Could there be a criminal indictment against Mr. Fortuny for posting nude images? Morally speaking, was the Craigslist sex baiting prank right or wrong?

If you would be so kind to continue this discussion after class, we can all meet up in the Comments.

Thank you for your time today. Class dismissed. 🙂

Sources:
4 Common Law Privacy Torts
2257. Record keeping requirements

Are Accounts of Consensual Sex a Violation of Privacy Rights?
Encyclopedia Dramatica – RFJason CL Experiment (warning: not safe for work)

Gus Moore is the Miami travel expert who founded the community website Miami Beach 411. If you like this posting, why not link to his blog or bookmark it as one of your favorites?

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4 Responses to Miami Cross Blogination: The Morality and Legality of the Craigslist Sex Baiting Prank

  1. Interesting…I hadn’t heard about this. Seems risky to me!

  2. Dayngr says:

    Oh yeah… this guy totally crossed the line. But then again, who gives their real name, number and photo to someone they don’t know? Oh, that’s right. People on Craiglist obviously. What he did was so far beyond wrong. So, with that said I think they should go for this guy’s jugular with all the gusto they have. Oh wait, that would be they’d have to show their lil pervy faces in court probably. Hmmm… I wonder how that will go over.

  3. Dayngr says:

    Oh yeah… this guy totally crossed the line. But then again, who gives their real name, number and photo to someone they don’t know? Oh, that’s right. People on Craiglist obviously. What he did was so far beyond wrong. So, with that said I think they should go for this guy’s jugular with all the gusto they have. Oh wait, that would be they’d have to show their lil pervy faces in court probably. Hmmm… I wonder how that will go over.

  4. Mila says:

    To go a little further with your tip (“If you don’t want your ‘business’ posted all over the internet, then don’t email it to people that you don’t know.”), even when you know (or think you know!) the person you are communicating with, you must always always ALWAYS secure the message and any attachments!

    Too many professionals, doctors, lawyers and consumers leave their email open to all kinds of tampering and distribution. If you’re not using encryption, your email isn’t safe in transit. If you’re using encryption, but are lacking email anti-theft protection, your email might be safe from fraudsters while it is in transit, but is left susceptible to being accessed, copied or forwarded once it reaches your recipient.

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