Lawyer Carrie Goldberg: Revenge Porn 'Isn't Speech' Attorney and author Carrie Goldberg was the target of revenge porn from an ex-boyfriend, and now she's built a practice helping people in similar situations. Her new book is Nobody's Victim.
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'This Isn't Speech:' Attorney Carrie Goldberg On Revenge Porn

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'This Isn't Speech:' Attorney Carrie Goldberg On Revenge Porn

'This Isn't Speech:' Attorney Carrie Goldberg On Revenge Porn

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When Carrie Goldberg broke up with her boyfriend of a few months, frightening things started happening. He sent her hundreds of threatening messages, contacted friends, family and even work colleagues on Facebook to spread vicious lies about her. And that wasn't all. One night, she opened her laptop to find email after email containing intimate pictures of her, including a graphic video filmed without her consent. Goldberg, a lawyer, went to the police and was told there was nothing they could do.

Thousands of dollars in legal fees and a restraining order later, Carrie Goldberg turned her traumatic episode into a career. She started her own firm to represent people who, like her, had been the targets of this kind of abuse. That's the focus of her new book, "Nobody's Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs And Trolls." And Carrie Goldberg is with us now in our studios in New York. Carrie Goldberg, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

CARRIE GOLDBERG: I'm so happy to be here.

MARTIN: So there are so many eye-popping stories in your book, including your own. It's hard to know where to start. I mean, could you just give us a sense, as briefly as you can, of the range of things we are talking about here.

GOLDBERG: This book covers stories that range from revenge porn to young people who've been sextorted to a high school student who was sexually assaulted outside of school.

MARTIN: There is also a man you write about in the book who was also subjected to vicious behavior by a vengeful ex. Just tell us briefly what happened to him.

GOLDBERG: So when Matthew (ph) first came to me, he told me about when it first started. Somebody had approached him while he was outside smoking a cigarette and walking his dog and recognized him. And Matthew had no idea who this man was and came to learn that he'd been sent through the gay dating app, Grindr. And Matthew's like, I don't even have an account on Grindr. There must be some mistake.

And then a few minutes later, somebody else came. Over the next few months, it continued happening almost a thousand times. It turned out that Matthew's ex-boyfriend was impersonating him on Grindr. And Matthew did everything that any one of us would do. He made a dozen police reports. He got an order of protection against his ex. He flagged these profiles and nothing stopped it.

MARTIN: So I wanted did to ask you about that. I mean, one of the points you make in the book is that the legal system hasn't caught up to the technologies that a lot of people use. For example, like, why is this site allowed to continue posting his image and his address even after he's contacted them and told them that it isn't him and it's being used to harass him? How is that possible?

GOLDBERG: Well, we ended up getting a restraining order against Grindr, demanding that they exclude this particular user. And when their lawyers came to court, they told us that Grindr didn't have the technology to exclude a user. And that was flabbergasting to us. So we ended up bringing a consumer protection lawsuit, basically saying that Grindr had released into the stream of commerce a defectively designed and produced product. And turns out that there's a 1996 law called the Communications Decency Act, which has been interpreted so broadly over the last 23 years that Grindr basically had immunity from liability.

And so this law, Section 230, is a protection that so many social media companies, websites, platforms hide behind. Basically, it gives them this false sense of confidence that they are outside the reach of our courts. So there's an argument that our laws cannot keep up with the technology. But, in actuality, we've had stalking and hacking laws. And now nonconsensual porn laws are in 46 states. We have the laws. But, sometimes, they're just really horribly interpreted. And that's the case with the Communications Decency Act.

MARTIN: What about people, though, who do, as I understand it, continually make the free speech argument? And what do you say to that?

GOLDBERG: This isn't about speech. Matthew's case - we weren't suing for anything that his offender said. We were suing for a products liability issue, you know? This was about conduct. I mean, they used to make this argument with nonconsensual porn, you know, that if we criminalize that, then we would lose all speech on the Internet. And now, you know, we have 46 states that have revenge porn laws. And I think, you know, speech is still pretty robust.

MARTIN: How do you feel now that - you know? You went through this terrible experience. You turned your worst moment into a career where you can advocate for others who've gone through it. But now this book - I mean, I know that you're very well-known in legal circles, you know, for example. And you're certainly well-known in - among the community of people who've experienced this who have found, you know, legal counsel. But now you've written this book, and your story is there, you know, in the world. How does it make you feel to tell your story in this way?

GOLDBERG: It's empowering to have told my story. But I have to admit that there are moments of confusion and fear and, oh, my God. Did I really put all of that in that book? And now, you know, when people tell me that they've read it, you know, there are parts of the book that I hadn't really talked about with almost anybody and something that I talk about in the conclusion, which was a really personal and frightening experience for me. And it's like, oh, my God, you know? Like, I've never even talked to my parents about that they know about it from the book.

But, you know, there is still some discomfort with the fact that I've put all of this and all of these personal stories into the book. But I'm proud of it. And I feel that it's important. And one of the reasons I did it is because my clients give me everything. They tell me the most personal details of their stories. And then I put it into legal complaints, and those become public documents. So, you know, if they're being so willing and so trusting to expose themselves in order to advance their case and advance the law, then what am I doing if I'm not following that same model?

MARTIN: Well, your book is very brave. And I think it will be very helpful. So thank you so much for writing it. Thank you so much for your important work.

GOLDBERG: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: That's Carrie Goldberg. Her book is called "Nobody's Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs And Trolls." Carrie Goldberg, thank you so much for talking with us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

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