Raleigh victim of dangerous file-sharing website: 'It's absolutely revenge porn'

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- "I'm not looking to hide," Cassie Rigsbee said, sitting at a picnic table in a Raleigh park. "There's nothing to hide from and there's no reason I should hide."

Rigsbee is one of the countless women who've been unknowingly victimized on a website called "Anon-IB." It's a file-sharing site that Rigsbee and others describe as a place for revenge porn, where misguided men (mostly) trade nude pictures of women and girls.

Years ago, she recalled a boyfriend taking pictures of her naked, something she was comfortable with at the time and largely forgot about. At least, until she heard about Anon-IB.

"I was praying I wouldn't find myself," she said. "Because I just heard about the website on a Facebook group I'm part of. So maybe I wasn't on there, right? I might as well look. That relationship didn't end well, so who knew if it was like a revenge porn thing?"

Rigsbee said she found multiple pictures posted to the site; some were taken when she was 14, still more from when she was 16.

"Finding them, I was so angry. It was like tunnel-vision. All I could do was look at the screen. And then the tears came."

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Because of how the website is organized - by region and/or location - Rigsbee said she found photos of about 10 other women and girls she knew from the community, as she was searching for her own images.

"And, of course, I would immediately go tell them. It was very distressing. It's absolutely revenge porn, and it doesn't affect just Raleigh, it's all over. They have categories of cities and states, specific locations. So, some guy could be on the website, walk down the street, and recognize me from the website, if he's been on it. That's how specific the location is. People think the internet is this large place; it's not, especially when it's categorized like this."

Rigsbee quickly found that Anon-IB lives up to its name.

"The website itself is anonymous. Very little - and I mean, very little - information is collected about the people posting."

That's when she found Duke Rogers at Triangle Forensics.

"If you look at these sites," Rogers told the I-Team from his office in Cary, "you see the animalistic nature of - unfortunately - a lot of men. At least every other week, we've got a case where we're trying to get a particular person down. These servers are usually out of the country, so getting them taken down is, on the whole, pretty difficult. Getting a picture or two down, we can do that."

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Rogers said one of his female employees makes it a mission to do just that in her downtime.

"Most people probably can't afford the resources to actually pay us to take it down," he said. "So, when she's not busy, she's finding pictures and works to get them taken off the site. Once you ring that bell, you can't unring it.

What happens is, girls are sending nudes to their boyfriends and either they've broken up with this boy and the pictures come out later or their iCloud is hacked and the pictures are downloaded that way. And once someone has them, they'll trade them for other people at their high school and they'll call out the requests. Typically, if you look at Anon-IB, you're going to see, 'Hey, does anybody have pictures of ... ? You know.'"

Rogers said getting a picture taken down can be as easy as clicking a box at the end of a post but keeping it off the site is a different matter entirely.

"The sites will have a mechanism where you can check a box and say, 'report this photo.' Problem is, that doesn't usually work quickly and it's also not very effective because the request will be made again. 'Hey, where are those pictures of so-and-so?' And they'll just be re-posted."

Rogers recommends starting with an email.

"When we send a letter to them we talk about never allowing this back on their site; not possessing it, removing it from their server," Rogers explained.

"And the way it works, whatever the URL is, if you email 'abuse@' then the domain name, that's going to go to someone at that company.

'Abuse' and 'info' and 'postmaster' are these special email addresses. It's strongly recommended that, when you have an email domain, those three email addresses are created. If you email 'abuse@' anything, most likely you're going to reach someone."

Rogers said they also mention jail time in their emails.

"We spell out jail times; the minimums for what they're doing because it's several felonies; to possess it, also to possess it in quantity, and then to allow someone else to get it and share it,' he continued. "And the minimums on these things are years and years."

Another one of Rogers' key suggestions: "Put that they're underage," he said. "It asks you to put a reason in and we'll put 'underage' or 'child pornography.' They're afraid of that."

As for the tactic Rogers thinks may be most effective?

"Tell them you want them to preserve all their data that relates to the incident; their logs, all the meta-data about who the users are, the account.

Then you say, 'I'm putting you on notice that you need to preserve this data because it's possible it's being used in a civil or criminal action.' That's actually one of the first things that happens if you are going to sue someone, so people who know (that process) will take that very seriously."

Rogers said there are more reasons to take this seriously than one might think.

For starters, he said he often sees men trying to extort women using the site.

"They will contact a girl with a fake Facebook account and they'll say, 'Hey, I noticed your picture is on this website. I can get it taken down for you if you want.' And, you know, the girl is like, 'Yes, please!' And then he'll be like, 'Well, I need ...'

Adding that is where extortion beings. "That's the dangerous side of this."

One problem Rogers said he sees frequently is local police not taking cyber-crimes seriously enough.

"It's an uphill battle," he said. "The priority is to handle the complaint in such a way that gets it off the radar. The person will do a police report and police will tell them, 'Oh, there's pretty much nothing we can do.' I know of one case where a kid had posted pictures of an underage girl and he received, essentially, a talking to by the police department."

Rogers also suspects the problem will get worse as technology gets even better.

"This is a case where we're closing a barn door and making it harder for pictures to be shown but as technology increases, instead of having to search by name or people, you can just search for a regular picture. You know, show a normal picture of the girl and have it return the results of all the nudes related to that person. That's not that far off."

That's part of the reason Rogers said he wanted to do this story with the I-Team.

"This could not be a bigger deal. I talk to these girls on the phone and I just hear their hearts breaking.

When asked about potential pushback from people who might feel that reports like this are more of a road-map for would-be predators than a warning to would be victims, Rogers said, "Most of our society doesn't even know about this, but the ones that do don't seem to take it seriously enough. Because if they did, this would stop. People don't realize this is child pornography."

"We see enough of this to know how prevalent it is and it's terrible," Rogers continued. "It's something people need to know about for multiple reasons. We need to know about it so that legislation, to the extent it can help can happen and we need to know about it so that a teenager will believe you when you say not to do this and here's why."

Meantime, Rigsbee said her next hurdle will be telling her mother about all this. She said her mom doesn't know about the pictures, let alone the fact they wound up online.

"Actually, one of my biggest worries about doing this is backlash," Rigsbee said.

Backlash from whom? ABC11 asked. "The community. My fear is that people won't understand until they're affected or until someone close to them is affected."

Rigsbee said she never confronted the person who took the pictures about their appearance on the site and doesn't know for sure how they got there.

"We stored the pictures on a shared website and that could have been hacked," she said.

She's of two minds when it comes to nude pictures on the whole.

"Taking the pictures shouldn't be a problem," she said. "But if anything about sharing these pictures scares anybody, don't send them. Period. And if you really don't want this to happen, don't even take them. Don't take them, don't send them. If it scares somebody that much, don't send them."

But Rogers has a different opinion.

"Don't take them period, ever."

Rogers has two daughters and said it's important for parents to have repeated and open conversations with their kids about what can happen with pictures and posts.

But notwithstanding the litany of digital dos and don'ts, Rigsbee said she wants other victims to know that nothing about being on the site reflects on them.

"It wasn't my choice, and choice is the key word here. If I'm consenting to it, I expect certain things. But with these, I did not. There was no way for me to. It's an attitude that produced this website, and it's that attitude that needs to shift."
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