The Facts: What is PredatorsAlerts.com?
Formerly known as ExposingJohns.com, PredatorsAlerts is an online website and user-generated content platform for users to anonymously accuse (mostly) men of soliciting escorts and prostitutes, and grooming children. Posters often provide personal information, including the “john’s” email address, phone number, and address, along with an accompanying photograph.
While at first glance PredatorsAlerts.com may appear to be a noble, reporting site for users to warn the public of persons engaging in illegal activities, it’s actually no more than an online cesspool, where site administrators have been accused of engaging in for-profit takedowns by posting innocent parties pictures and demanding payment.
Defamation Law Removal Tip: If you’re the victim of online defamation or cyberbullying, it’s important to gather and preserve all evidence you can. Be sure to screenshot, print, and make digital copies of all pictures, search results, and other posts relevant to your defamation claim. Making digital copies is especially important, and will strengthen your claim due to it being less easily manipulated and altered.
PredatorsAlerts.com and online libel both pose a serious threat to your personal and professional reputation, so it’s important to act swiftly. Contact the Defamation Removal Lawyers of Minc Law and get started today. Give us a call at (216) 373-7706, or schedule a meeting online.
We want to fight for your reputation.
The Scam: How It Works
It’s important to note PredatorsAlerts.com’s history of engaging in rampant sextortion and for-profit takedowns is well documented. Specifically, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) blog post reveals numerous users were defamed, cyberbullied, blackmailed, and illegally ransomed to remove stolen photos and information from ExposingJohns.com/ExposingJills.com (now PredatorsAlerts.com).
Step 1: ExposingJohns/Jills would set up fake ads over Craigslist and other online outlets
Step 2: Upon receiving a text, image, or other response, use that personal information to find an innocent party’s’ social media
Step 3: Post their photos to the ExposingJohns, ExposingJills, and PredatorsAlerts.com, and
Step 4: Text or email a screenshot of an innocent party’s photos and personal information to them, along with a demand of payment for permanent removal.
Defamation Law Fact: Although it may seem futile filing a complaint with the FTC, it does work. ExposingJohns.com was heavily investigated by the FTC, and ultimately removed.
Additionally, innocent parties and victims have come forward on countless other sites acknowledging they’ve suffered the same fate as the above FTC commenters. To report a scam, unfair business practice, or identity theft, you can file a complaint with the FTC. Doing so can help them detect patterns of fraud and other abuse, ultimately curbing the widespread effect of such damaging sites as PredatorsAlerts.com.
Don’t let someone’s personal vendetta destroy your personal and professional life. Reach out to Cleveland-based attorney Aaron Minc and his team of experienced online defamation removal lawyers today!
Defamation Removal Tip: Parties who engage in online defamation by posting false statements of fact damaging another’s reputation are often referred to as “slanderers,” “libelers,” “defamers,” and sometimes even “famacide.”
Five Key Issues with PredatorsAlerts.com’s Website and Content Removal Policy
- Anonymous posters: PredatorsAlerts.com doesn’t even have a user registration form. In order to submit a malicious and false post. All users have to do is fill out a form, and enter an innocent party’s information and picture, no registration required. Most user-generated content platforms at least require an email address, however PredatorsAlerts even forgoes the bare minimum for security. Users who post anonymously have significantly higher rates of posting defamatory content, due to the minimal and tedious channels of legal recourse for victims.
- Unverified and inaccurate information: Going hand-in-hand with anonymous posters is unverified and highly offensive content. If a poster knows it is highly unlikely they’ll ever be discovered, why wouldn’t they stretch the truth in order to further their own agenda?
- Vague removal policy: PredatorsAlerts.com states they “don’t promote censorship or get involved with poster disputes,” leaving it up to the victim to resolve the issue with the poster. Such removal policy would carry a little more weight if the poster was even recognizable, but PredatorsAlerts.com’s submission policy doesn’t even require users provide a single piece of identifying information. Ultimately, such a vague removal policy allows online libel to flourish and cyberbullying to continue.
- Copyright infringement: Malicious posters are often unaware they aren’t able to freely use someone’s picture unless they possess the actual copyright, or have been given consent to post it by the copyright holder. Because of PredatorsAlerts.com’s informal submission procedures, users are encouraged to attach photos, which often results in unrestrained copyright infringement of innocent parties’ pictures.
- Potential extortion: As mentioned above, PredatorsAlerts.com (formerly ExposingJohns.com) has been accused of engaging in acts of “sextortion,” where they post an innocuous Craigslist ad, and later user any personal information exchanged to blackmail unsuspecting persons. The FBI acknowledges sextortion as a serious crime and provides an informative video and list of how to avoid falling victim to online predators and extortion scams.
Ohio Defamation Law Fact: When bringing a defamation claim, requirements of fault will differ when the subject of the false statement is a private or public figure. In defining what constitutes a ‘public figure,” Ohio courts follow the case of Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc, which defines public figures as persons who have achieved pervasive fame and influence, and requires the defendant acted with “actual malice” when publishing the defamatory statement.
Can I Hold PredatorsAlerts.com Liable for Defamatory Online Content?
Absent a few narrow and specific circumstances, victims of online defamation generally can’t hold user-generated platforms and websites liable for online defamation and cyberbullying.
User-generated platforms benefit from a landmark piece of legislation drafted in 1996, titled the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Section 230 of the CDA provides immunity from liability for websites who offer interactive computer services and content platforms.
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Ohio Defamation Law Tip: Dissimilar to most states, which relegate the legal principle of defamation per se to three or four categories, Ohio takes a broad stance, defining it as any statement that “reflects upon the character of [the plaintiff] by bringing him into ridicule, hatred, or contempt, or affects him injuriously in his trade or profession.”
When analyzing whether a website or content platform receives immunity under the CDA, courts generally use a three-prong test, all of which a defendant must satisfy:
- Defendant as a provider or user: the defendant must be a “provider or user” of an interactive computer service,
- Defendant as a publisher or speaker: the plaintiff must treat the defendant as the “publisher or speaker” of the harmful and offensive content at issue (usually defamatory and false online posts and reviews), and
- Information provided by third-party: the information must be “provided by another information content provider.”
The crux of Section 230’s protection comes from the third requirement, where the website was not the actual provider of the information. Just as telephone companies are not liable for the harassment, threats, or inappropriate content discussed via their telephone lines, user-generated content platforms are not liable for false posts, libel, and other forms of online defamation.
Section 230 of the CDA has generated considerable controversy due to several courts interpreting it to provide complete immunity for internet service providers (ISPs) and torts committed by their users. Although Section 230 does provide near-blanket protection for ISPs and user-generated content platforms, there are several notable exceptions which injured parties may rely on to remove defamatory and malicious content.
- Criminal law violations: Although user-generated content platforms are immune from civil liability in most cases, they aren’t immune from criminal liability. If a website violates local, state, or federal law, they are not covered under the CDA. The most common instances when websites don’t enjoy CDA immunity are in cases of sexual exploitation of minors and content with a heavy emphasis on obscenity.
- Intellectual property infringement: PredatorsAlerts.com provides an apparent safe-haven for users to infringe on innocent parties’ intellectual property by allowing them to upload images. ISPs and user-generated content platforms are not immune from lawsuits when they have posted content infringing on a person or entity’s copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property. Websites who are given notice of infringing intellectual property are required to immediately move it.
- Promissory estoppel: There are several notable legal cases where a website promised users they would forfeit their protection under the CDA, and was required to uphold such statement. ISPs and websites may by explicit promise or contract, waive their CDA immunity. Simply put, when a website explicitly waives their protection under the CDA, they aren’t able to subsequently renege and rely on the CDA.
- Facilitation and encouragement to post illegal content: Due to general public policy and criminal law provisions, websites will not receive CDA immunity when they have explicitly encouraged users to post illegal content. Such principle has been upheld in two separate federal appeals courts.
- Edited content materially altering its meaning: User-generated content platforms enjoy such extensive immunity under the CDA due to third-parties creating and posting offensive and libelous content. However, when a website materially alters its position, and becomes the creator, or editor of content, they are not covered under the CDA. ISPs and user-generated content websites generally act similar to book distributors, such as bookstores, newsstands, and libraries, however, when they exert influence over the actual content being created, they take on a role similar to that of a book publisher, and are thus liable for the content. When assessing the merits of your defamation claim, first look to see whether the website where it is posted edited or added any original content to the post in question.
Ohio Defamation Claim Tip: The statute of limitations for bringing a defamation claim in Ohio is one (1) year.
Work With with Experienced Online Defamation Removal Lawyers to Remove False Content
If you’ve been defamed or found your picture and information posted on PredatorsAlerts.com and want it removed immediately, the reputation lawyers of Minc Law want to fight for you. Our team of experienced lawyers and defamation removal lawyers know how to work with website administrators, content managers, and third-party arbitrators to find the quickest and smoothest path of permanent removal.
Although going after anonymous posters seems near impossible, Aaron Minc and his Cleveland-based team have the ability to uncover the identity of such poster and hold them liable for their actions. Additionally, we specialize in revenge porn takedowns, and have removed countless illegal pictures from revenge porn websites.
Reputation Repair Tip: In order to bury negative and malicious online content in Google’s search results, there are several proactive and free steps you can take, such as: (1) publishing fresh and frequent original content on social media profiles and other websites, (2) starting a blog and posting regularly, (3) responding directly to negative attacks and offering your side of the story, (4) commenting publicly on news articles and forums, and (5) linking between your various profiles and websites.
What can you expect when working with Aaron and his team?
- Websites Respond to Minc Law: We know who to contact and how to contact them. At Minc Law, we will work mercilessly to get the results your want and need.
- You Will Be Treated with Courtesy and Respect: Our goals are your goals. We know confronting online defamation can be stressful and overwhelming, so just know that we are always on your side.
- We Will Work With You: Some lawyers go silent once the takedown process is underway. At Minc Law, we will stay in constant contact with you concerning the details of your case via phone, text, email, or whichever medium is most convenient for you.