Jason Fortuny - using people as things

By now you may have already heard of Jason Fortuny, a Seattle-based network administrator & web designer who, on Monday, posted an ad in the casual encounters area of the very popular Craig's List web site. (The best article on this is from Violet Blue, link to article - warning! Not safe for work!)

Jason didn't post his own ad; he re-posted an extremely explicit ad of a woman from another city. (Or perhaps a guy acting like a troll, it isn't very clear who the original poster could be.) The ad was that of a not very bright woman seeking men for insane BDSM sex. (As opposed to safe and sane BDSM sex.) The accompanying photo of the ad is not safe for work, but closely resembles a mixture of a gynecology exam and the "Goatse" photo. (This link is safe for work)

178 men responded, most with very explicit photos attached, some with personal data in their email including phone numbers, work email addresses, and Instant Messaging addresses. And then Jason posted all their replies, with no data redacted, in a public wiki. On Jason's Livejournal page his friends started web-searching these replies and connecting them to real people.

The fallout from this is just starting.

There is speculation that what Jason did was illegal and immoral. Jason and his fan club believe that he did no wrong and are busy laughing and congratulating themselves about generating a firestorm of news. There is no doubt that Jason Fortuny's place in Internet history is assured.

I'm not sure his actions are unlawful, but I suspect that his actions may result in new laws that make the public exposure of private information illegal.

As for immoral, his fan club has said that the married guys who responded to this got what they deserved. That the single guys, if they were not comfortable with the BDSM lifestyle, should not have been IN the lifestyle and got what they deserved too. Everyone else who is comfortable with what they do, well, what are they complaining about? And anyway, whoever is stupid enough to send explicit or personal info to an Internet date on the first email is stupid enough to deserve what they get.

But that's not the point. Jason Fortuny's actions were completely immoral.

Whether or not these guys deserve to have their information posted is beside the point. The immorality stems from Jason's actions of using people as a means of pumping up his own ego.

He used them with no care or thought at all. He treated people as things. This makes him an immoral person.

And just because of that immorality, this incident will come back to bite Jason.

First, he's opened himself to individual lawsuits from these people. Personally, I think he could win each lawsuit due to the nature of the ad. The judges involved will not be inclined to look favorably at those bringing suit. But Jason could potentially end up having to defend himself 178 times. That's going to be expensive.

Second, Jason's job as a network administrator may require that he work behind a company firewall. Companies keep trade secrets. His company customers will probably not be pleased that Jason has proved that he can't keep private things private when there's a chance it will pump up his ego. At the very least, I expect his boss to talk to him about this. At worst, he could find himself unemployed.

Note: according to his resume and web site, sometime in 2003 he stopped working for other companys and presumably went to work for himself in graphic and web site design and in network administration.

I guess I'm not surprised he would work for himself, his jobs since high school were all telephone customer service jobs and were probably not paying much or being outsourced to someone in India.

In retaliation, Jason Fortuny's personal info has been posted to the net. It shouldn't be hard to figure out where he works - and when that happens I expect his employer to get a few phone calls. That probably won't go over very well either.

Third, Jason works in a career field where the best money comes to those who have a security clearance. He has just blown the chance to ever land a six-figure job. I hope he will be satisfied with being a lower middle-class employee for the rest of his life.

And lastly, there's retaliation. A lot of these people are very angry - possibly angry enough to do something about it. Jason may want to watch his back for the next year or three. I think he should at least expect some property damage. And perhaps he might not live long enough to apply for a better future job.

But hey, he shouldn't be surprised. He should expect that kind of thing when he used people as things.

Safe for work articles on this story:
Boing Boing

Metro UK


A lot of people have been speculating about Jason's own phone number and address. Jason has apparently become concerned in some part since he's scrubbed his livejournal site and home page of all his personal contact information. (Including removing his resume, which would hurt someone who may be self-employed.)

But most of that was retrievable through Google cache and a 'whois' request of his website. His resume indicates he's moved at least 4 times in the last 10 years, and I found several different phone numbers for him and his family members.

I did all of that in 30 minutes, spending no money. If someone were to spend a little extra effort and about $50 worth of fees, they could probably narrow down his location to something current. It would be simple for someone living in Seattle, like the people stung in this prank, to go to some of his previous addresses and knock on the doors. His old apartment managers might help out.

My point to this is that he can be found fairly easily by someone who has any Internet sense. People without a clue of how to do Internet searches could still get all the info they needed for a little money.

So far Jason Fortuny has showed little common sense - I hope he wises up and keeps a low profile soon, or he may end up like Amy Boyer.
"There's a difference between ignorance and stupidity.
Ignorance is curable, stupidity is frequently fatal."

- R.A. Heinlein (attributed)

Wow, it's been a busy day for poor Jason. He made it into mainstream news around 8PM. The Associated Press reported on his antics in Yahoo News tonight. I only found a couple of new interesting comments.

First, Jason not only published the ad, but he kept reposting it as it was repeatedly yanked offline by Craigslist. The ad by itself makes him a jerk, but reposting it over and over again makes him a chortling ass-hat.
Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster told the AP in an e-mail that Fortuny's actions violated the site's policies. He noted that the ad in question was removed several times, only to be reposted.
Second, it just may be possible that he could be liable under Washington law. So not only is he going to be sued by individuals, but right now the King County District Attorney's office is probably deciding whether he should be brought up on criminal charges. Jason doesn't have the 'public figure' angle to use as a dodge.
Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Craigslist would be protected under federal law exempting service providers from liability for what their users do. Fortuny's liability under Washington state law, he said, rests on whether the disclosures are of legitimate concern to the public.

"As far as I know, they (the respondents) are not public figures, so it would be challenging to show that this was something of public concern," Opsahl said.
I am wondering if Jason is concerned, or possibly even worried about what might happen to him next. Maybe he's gone into hiding until he can consult his lawyer?
Fortuny did not immediately respond to e-mails from The Associated Press, and calls Monday to his telephone number generated a message saying the subscriber "is not in service."
Hm. I'd say worried AND in hiding. I just noticed that he's MIA since 7:40 PM Saturday.

Follow up: Sept 12th

I'm disappointed with Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert Jamieson Jr's article on this today. Mr. Jamieson's article is nothing more than a poorly researched rewrite of the AP article I quoted yesterday.

What gives? He actually lives in Seattle - he could actually hit the street and do some real research. He had to prepair this article yesterday to get it into today's paper - he had the time to try to visit Jason at one of the addresses available.

At least the AP reporter, Anick Jesdanun, expanded on the story with relevant commentary from a privacy advocate, an EFF represenative, and with a quote from the founder of Craigslist, all wrapped up for publishing in today's paper.

But Violet Blue's original article set a pretty high standard on this news. Breaking news, in-depth, and well researched.

Although Jason's LiveJournal site is still online (with still no sign of Jason since Saturday) his web site is now completely offline. A whois search on his domain name now indicates that it has been registered anonymously. Smart move, but a little late since a lot of people already has his info.

It also makes me think that the address and phone number used in the registration were legitimate.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god! they sent nasty pics to a sex ad and were exposed!

it's just like a preacher takign pics of licence plates ata adult store. They get what they deserve.

No different from selling crap to stupid people.

Anonymous said...

First, the laws of selling things are a bit different. You're supposed to get something for something, and if you don't then it isn't a sale, it's a scam.

It doesn't matter that you pay good money and get 'crap'. Some people actually want to buy crap. (Wal-mart sells 20 pound bags of crap - great for roses!)

If the buyer is happy with his purchase, then it doesn't matter what is sold. Even (shudder) homeopathy should stay legal. (But in my opinion it should never be marked as, or sold with medicine!)

As for preachers taking photos of license plates at an adult store, that is also immoral. The preacher is treating people as a means to pump up his own congregation. (I’m sure that could be denied by the preacher, but he can’t deny that it is a happy side-effect of his actions.)

And if the preacher widely publishes the information that he receives, (like on the Internet) then he is even worse than Jason because he is supposed to know better.

Lastly, when did two wrongs ever make a right?

What Jason did was scam people. He got something (the Internet notoriety he craved) for nothing. That puts him in the same category as a 419 scammer.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Jason works for a company. My impression was that he worked for himself. So he's probably not too worried about getting fired from his job.

Anonymous said...

hm. Okay. So it might not hurt his current paycheck if he's just making websites for a living.

Still, I would guess it would make it difficult for him to take larger contracts from companies that insist on working with ethical people. Some companies are sticky that way.

I still think he's installed his own personal 'glass ceiling' into his career path.

Anonymous said...

Great post and spot on. Just work backwards from his resume and start contacting his clients. Send them the link from his personal ad, ask if they find it amusing.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but I wouldn't be surprised if this guy gets a f*ing beat-down from some of the people he scammed, especially if they end up fired or divorced. My point is that regardless of their infidelity or impropriety of posting from work (only an issue for a small percentage), they will blame Jason for making it far worse.

And, as all Jason's "supporters" are fond of pointing out, the Internet is like a "permanent" public record. That ratchets up the stakes for anyone who feels wronged by Fortuny.

Like the eventual resolution for the "Star Wars Kid", there will be stiff consequences for people who break the law in pulling pranks/jokes on others.

Anonymous said...

Those people who answered the ad were gonna treat the girl like a thing.

Jason just taught those assholes a lesson

Anonymous said...

Anon #1 -

I'm not sure Jason broke the law. The Star Wars Kid incident had to deal with the theft and publishing of copyrighted property. They had a pretty firm case without the need to cite embarrassment.

Humiliation and embarrassment usually come into play during the sentencing phase of a trial.

As for calling his ex-employers, I wouldn't do that because I just don't care enough about the whole thing. Jason is nothing more to me than a thought-experiment on Kantian ethics. Use people as things and you deserve to get burned.

No, I researched his personal data because I wanted to see how easy it was to do so. It was pretty darned easy, especially since he posted the info in so many places.

Anon #2:
Yes, perhaps most of those people were willing to treat her like a thing. But that still does not make Jason's actions right.

The ad and the responses don't reflect the 'mainstream' BDSM that I've read about either. I don't think those responders were respected members of the BDSM community, I think they were just fringe predators.

Anonymous said...

Do you have his address and phone number?

Anonymous said...

Hi Meeka! The answer is, maybe. I copied his Whois info on Sunday night, and did some digging in different online phone number and address databases.

I'm more inclined to believe the Whois info would lead to Jason because it was made private in the last 12 hours or so. Why would he bother unless it is accurate?

I guess if someone could prove he was a reporter and that he needed this info, I'd pass it on - but really Jason's info could probably be found in a thousand places online by now.

Scientia said...

An object lesson in objectification. No pun intended.

Wow. I have a somewhat uneasy relationship with technology- in some ways I'm an absolute geek (in the true sense- how many non-geeks read ArsTechnica?); in others I'm a Luddite. But I hadn't really thought about invasion of privacy on the scale Fortuny's managed to create. Scary.

Also a reflection of the fact that, when you deal with someone as an abstraction instead of a real person- this is especially true of initial internet contacts- if you don't actually have an ethical code, or if it's in ruins like this guy's is, there is an enormous potential for exploitation.