Revenge porn campaigner warns “well intended” petitions are giving abuse sites more traffic

Sophie Gallagher
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An online petition to remove a website that “promotes revenge pornography” has had the unintended consequence of generating more traffic, according to campaigners.

The Change.org petition says the website - the name of which The Independent has chosen not to publish - is “dangerous” and should be shut down immediately.

“It promotes itself as a revenge porn site encouraging its users to share information and explicit content about particular women,” it says.

On the unnamed website, which is hosted in Russia, users regularly share and trade sexual photographs or videos of third parties who have not given their consent to them being shared, as well as home addresses and workplaces of those in the images.

The website charges users $29.99 (£23) per quarter and payment is made in Bitcoin.

The petition continues: "This is an absolute outrage and violation of women's rights. This website and the behaviour it promotes encourages a dangerous and predatory mindset, abuse and stalking."

But campaigners working to highlight issues around image-based sexual abuse, such as revenge porn, say the petition - which gathered 21,000 signatures in three days - has had unintended consequences.

Kate Isaacs, who founded ‘Not Your Porn’ after her friend was the victim of revenge porn, told The Independent: “All that petition has done is creating an advert to further promote that website and it’s dangerous.

“People feel powerless and petition sites like Change offer power to people, so they’re always well intended, but they cannot offer real solutions.”

Isaacs says that the petition has had the “total opposite effect” to what the creator wanted.

The campaigner says traffic to the website has been driven up “mass amounts” by the petition. The petition originally featured a direct link to the site, but that has now been removed.

Google Trends analysis by The Times estimated that visits to the site from the UK had increased to a value of 100 (it provides a relative value not real-time figures). But this is the maximum potential increase, indicating a huge interest as a result of the petition.

Commenters on the petition gave reasons for signing, one said: "I'm signing because revenge porn is deplorable..."

Another said: "This is creepy. A violation of human rights. Violation of privacy."

This isn’t the first time the website has come under fire: in 2018 the Australian government issued a warning against people using the website.

Isaacs said petition websites need to be more vigilant about what they permit on their platform and have moderators looking at petitions of this nature.

A spokesman for Change.org said: “We have a robust set of community guidelines and there is a button on every petition page which allows users to flag any concerns to our dedicated policy team.

"We were made aware of a complaint relating to this petition. Our policy team acted quickly to investigate and disable any links to the website from the petition."