'Revenge porn' site owner arrested in San Diego
A 27-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the running of a "revenge porn" website.
Kevin Bollaert is accused of being behind UGotPosted, a site that published intimate photographs of people against their wishes.
It would link to relevant social networks of the subjects pictured.
Prosecutors said the website also sought to extort money from the people featured on the site by charging a fee to have pictures taken down.
"This website published intimate photos of unsuspecting victims and turned their public humiliation and betrayal into a commodity with the potential to devastate lives," California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement.
"Online predators that profit from the extortion of private photos will be investigated and prosecuted for this reprehensible and illegal internet activity."
The authorities alleged that Mr Bollaert also ran changemyreputation.com, a site that offered services to have pictures from UGotPosted removed for a fee of about $300 (£180).
According to court documents, he is said to have made "around $900 per month from advertising on the site and records obtained from his changemyreputation.com PayPal account indicate that he received payments totalling tens of thousands of dollars".
More than 10,000 images had been posted to the site, arranged by location, police said.
In addition to the photographs, each entry would display a range of contact details - including links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, places of work and other personal information.
Mr Bollaert is being held in a San Diego jail on $50,000 (£30,000) bail. He has not yet entered a plea.Distress
As part of the investigation, a search warrant was obtained to look through emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org - the address used by the site administrator.
"Please help!" read one email. "I am scared for my life!"
The woman - named in court only as Jane Doe #6 - said she felt unable to go back to work as people who had seen the picture had then called her office.
Jane Doe #6 also noted that she may have been under 18 years old when the pictures in question had been taken.
Another victim said over 100 people had tried to contact her after her pictures appeared on the website.ID theft
Revenge porn sites have typically been difficult to shut down thanks to what many see as outdated laws surrounding the publishing of images.
A common hurdle for law enforcement is the Communications Decency Act, which has been used as a defence for website owners who have found their services being used for hosting or distributing illegal material.
The crime - the defendants have repeatedly successfully argued - is perpetrated by the user who uploaded the images, not the owner of the website.
Another closed revenge porn site, IsAnyoneUp.com, was targeted by campaigners who said it was a gross invasion of privacy.
However, in this case the most effective way to see the content removed, at least from Google search results, was by using copyright law.
If the person in a picture also took it - a "selfie" - then a copyright claim can be made to search engines under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, known as DMCA, designed to make it easier to stop pirated content from spreading online.
In targeting UGotPosted, prosecutors used a different approach - pressing charges of ID theft and extortion.
Law makers in several US states are looking at ways to crack down on revenge porn.
In October, California enacted a new law that made posting explicit images of someone without permission punishable with six months in prison.