Go Daddy sued by Texas women over 'revenge porn' site

Legal experts say they don't expect Web-hosting company Go Daddy to be found liable in a case involving a Texas porn site.

At least 17 women who say their nude photos were posted on a "revenge porn" site without their permission are suing the site and its Web-hosting company, Go Daddy.

The lawsuit, filed last month in district court in Orange County, Texas, says Texxxan.com and Go Daddy conspired to invade the women's privacy and cause them "severe embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress." The women are seeking unspecified damages plus attorney fees.

"This explicit website is dedicated to publishing intimate photos of young women, and also publishing private facts about these women, all of which are done without obtaining permission or authorization from the women who are the victims of this website," the lawsuit states.

Texxxan.com appeared to be inaccessible on Thursday.

Go Daddy, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company, hosts millions of websites around the world. Go Daddy spokeswoman Elizabeth Driscoll told The Arizona Republic the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Legal experts contacted by the Republic said the case against Go Daddy is extremely weak. They pointed to the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which indicates Web-hosting companies are not liable for content on their customers' websites.

"That's just a complete non-starter," said Patrick Luff, visiting assistant professor of law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Luff told the Republic he thinks Go Daddy will be dismissed from the case.

Plaintiffs' attorney John Morgan of Beaumont, Texas, said Go Daddy is listed as a defendant under the "doctrine of civil conspiracy" because it profited from the activities of Texxxan.com.

"The reality of it is at some level this issue of revenge porn has to become a public discussion and a legislative discussion and it raises issues of corporate responsibility. Why would an organization like Go Daddy want to give its name to this type of website?" Morgan told Betabeat.

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The women's attorneys are seeking to have the lawsuit certified as a class action.

Hollie Toups, a 32-year-old Beaumont, Texas, resident, is among the women suing. She has publicly come forward to discuss her experience.

She told Betabeat that she suspects an ex-boyfriend uploaded some photos of her onto the porn site. She says other photos may have been lifted from her phone or computer'

"I live in an extremely small town and the website was flooded with people that I knew," Toups told Betabeat. "Those of us on there go to the grocery store and everybody recognizes you. Not everybody says something, but you get a lot of like, 'Hey, do I know you?' or, 'I recognize you from somewhere.' But then you also get people that will just come out and say it."

Most U.S. courts have found website-hosting companies generally not liable for content on a customer's site. In a 2010 case, for example, a Web-hosting company called InMotion Hosting was dismissed as a defendant from a defamation lawsuit filed by a Missouri couple who sold exotic cats. The couple contended visitors to Complaintsboard.com, a site that InMotion hosted, said mean and untrue things about them.

A district judge ruled that the Communications Decency Act immunized the hosting provider from liability, and a federal appeals court affirmed that decision, according to media reports.

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