Last Monday, a Seattle web developer named Jason Fortuny started a Craigslist experiment. The goal: “Posing as a submissive woman looking for an aggressive dom, how many responses can we get in 24 hours?”

He took the text and photo from a sexually explicit ad in another area, reposted it to Craigslist Seattle, and waited for the responses to roll in. Like Simon’s experiment, the response was immediate. He wrote, “178 responses, with 145 photos of men in various states of undress. Responses include full e-mail addresses (both personal and business addresses), names, and in some cases IM screen names and telephone numbers.”

In a staggering move, he then published every single response, unedited and uncensored, with all photos and personal information to Encyclopedia Dramatica (kinda like Wikipedia for web fads and Internet drama).

Instantly, commenters on the LiveJournal thread started identifying the men. Dissenters emailed the guys to let them know they were scammed. Several of them were married, which has led to what will likely be the first of many separations. One couple in an open marriage begged that their information be removed, as their religious family and friends weren’t aware of their lifestyle. Another spotted a fellow Microsoft employee, based on their e-mail address. And it’s really just the beginning, since the major search engines haven’t indexed these pages yet. After that, who knows? Divorces, firings, lawsuits, and the assorted hell that come from having your personal sex life listed as the first search result for your name.

Jason Fortuny’s web server is up or down depending on traffic. (One commenter claims to live in the same apartment building as Fortuny.) Other recent mentions include BBC News, Wired’s Ryan Singel has coverage and a response to commenters. The New York Times article is slated for tomorrow.

  1. Marc Perkel says:

    If he had done that with me he would have found himself sued.

  2. John says:

    Idiots that respond to an ad like that with valid personal ID’s including work email addresses and lewd pictures have no rights to sue. Especially the Microsoft employee, jeez how hard is it to setup a psuedonym on a hotmail account.

  3. Richard says:

    The problem is determining which side is worse…

  4. ECA says:

    Posting to public forums is stupid.
    the NET isnt private…

  5. Smartalix says:

    What John said.

    You shouldn’t put anything on the web you aren’t afraid to see on prime-time national TV.

  6. Tom says:

    I love the “I’ll sue” response from victims and readers. What are you going to sue for? Reposting publicly posted information? Leaking information that should have never had an expectation of privacy in the first place?

    This is not the first time people have been duped in chat, forums, or message boards. Heck, just look at all the dateline investigates series where a Paedophile was meeting up with fictional kids. I’ve also read IM transcripts from Yahoo!, MSN, AIM, etc. that get pretty graphic. The point here is that the communication going on happens in the view of the public. Everybody between you and the recipient of the message can read it unless you take some measure to prevent such intrusion.

    I guess the moral of the story here is (as is so often the case): If you have something to hide, don’t do it on the ‘net!

  7. James Hill says:

    Marc, are you saying you would actually send your picture in for something like this?

  8. Gig says:

    What would you have sued him for Marc? There was never any promise that those who replied would be anonymous was there?

  9. Dougless says:

    I am surprised how many men posted their real name, used their work email address, and posted sexually explicit photos. One of the respondents, with a very explicit photo, was a Microsoft employee. He claimed to be married as well. Doh!

  10. Mike Voice says:

    He used someone else’s name and photo to start this.

    I wonder how many of the responders did the same?

    Used to be you could List-serve bomb someone’s mail account, by signing them up for numerous email lists. They even had “one-stop shopping” sites, where you could sign someone up for hundreds [if not thousands] of lists.

    Now, all you just have to do is use their info to reply to all the sex-related ads out there.

    A guys at work used to mail-in the free subscription cards we received at work – in a co-worker’s name – so he would receive an avalanche of catalogs, and stern warnings from the Mailroom to stop ordering new ones…

  11. Gregory says:

    “If you contact someone for any reason, and via any medium, you assume a reasonable degree of privacy.”

    What’s that phrase about Assumptions?…

    If you make an incorrect assumption that doesn’t mean the other person has to live up to that assumption.

  12. A_B says:

    “If you make an incorrect assumption that doesn’t mean the other person has to live up to that assumption.”

    There are in fact numerous “assumptions” that we have a legal right to make. These assumptions regard the behavior of the other party. Failure of the other party to abide by these assumptions can lead to legal actions.

    For example, the following are legal “assumptions”: the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” and the “implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose,” and “implied warranty of habitability.” There are many, many more “assumptions” that you have a legal right to make. That is, in the agreement between two parties, each party does not have to spell out the things that should in fact be present. A floor, if you will, of behavior.

    Whether or not there are legal assumptions here, I don’t know. But the broad statement by Gregory is incorrect.

    In any case, the fact that, just a guess, the disclosure of this personal information tends to “shock the conscience” in terms of the way private information should be handled, makes me think that there is an actionable violation here.

  13. Gary says:

    I’m guessing, Mr. Dvorak, that the picture of Tigger and Rabbit at the top of your article is not the same one that Mr. Fortuny posted in his Craigslist article. 🙂

  14. scott says:

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these idiots. Particularly the ones worried about getting caught trying to cheat on their spouses. Don’t do it if getting caught is not an option.

    OTOH, I don’t see how this will pass without repercussions for this Jason kid, and having read some of his comments, that’s not anything to cry over either. He’s an egotistical little jackass as best I can tell.

    As already said, hard to tell which side is worth. Lots of pathetic losers here.

  15. scott says:

    ^^^ “which side is worth” should be “which side is worse”

  16. Don says:

    It’s stupid MORONS like this that make us perverts look like a bunch of bumbling idiots!

    I guess I’ll just have to keep living my PRIVATE perverted life anonymously on the internet.



    No, I will not attach my naked picture to this response. That’s GROSS.

  17. Angel H. Wong says:

    I wonder which was sleazier?

  18. Walter says:

    It amazes me what people will post on the Internet.
    I have had several converstaions with young females in my family about this. “Only post on the internet what you wouldn’t be embarrased to read in a locked bulletinboard”
    I’ve “found” things they have put out that they didn’t think an adult would read. This kind of scared them a bit.

  19. Marc Perkel says:

    I don’t send naked pics because it tends to work against me. But Craigslist runs a hookup site and people often exchange pic and personal informaion with the expectation of privacy.

  20. god says:

    He sounds “holier-than-thou” enough to be a Xhristian.

  21. Marc Perkel says:

    I have a dozen or so named pics that women have sent me in response to Craigslist ads. So if I published them along with their email, email address, phone numbers, and other personal information would I not be violating their privacy? Or is it different when it’s men who send pics?

  22. Mr. H. Fusion says:

    #20, Suuuure, I don’t post my picture either, but because it would scare children and cause mass miscarriages. It might even alert a few process servers.

    Joking aside, I agree with your first post and would probably think the same thing. What was missed in some of the other posts, especially #13, a well put comment, is that the original ad was fraudulent and posted with the forethought of embarrassing people who were enticed into doing something they might not otherwise do.

  23. Sam Foley says:

    Mr. Dvorak, today on 9/11, I say this: I am a geek who firmly believes in Freedom of Speech; but there are “Lines” of what is right or wrong on the ‘net – imo, what this person did for shits and giggles is a clear case of WRONG – there is no Public right to know; and I’m sorry Mr. Dvorak you felt the need to share this on your widely read blog.

  24. ECA says:

    If they replied to Craigslist, PUBLICly, then its fair game.
    Cragslist is a public concern, and anything posted Public, and NOT direct to you, is fair game…send it around the world..

  25. Smartalix says:

    The guy is wrong, sure. But that doesn’t make the people involved any less careless.

  26. Gregory says:

    A_B – you completely missed my point, all the examples you give feature “implied” rights and similar things. That is not what I was referring to at all, and really it is hard to justify that I was.

    Implication of something by one party is not the same as an unprompted assumption by another. Assumptions based on evidence are at least partially justifiable. There is no implied privacy in communication with someone, none at all.

    Perhaps I should amend my statement to make it clearer:

    If you make an unfounded assumption, that is based on no, or inaccurate, evidence, that doesn’t mean the other person has to live up to that assumption.

  27. …Can’t believe I didn’t think of that first. *smacks forehead*

  28. Jason Fortuny 425-443-1573

  29. Jägermeister says:

    So, what are the odds on that Jason Fortuny will survive until New Year? Perhaps Dvorak can put up a Dead Pool and we can all make our bets?

  30. Narg says:

    The information sent to the craigs list poster WAS NOT PUBLIC! They sent information to a private e-mail address with the given expectation that the information sent to that private e-mail address would be kept private. That person betrayed that expectation, and maliciously posted information intended to be private. If those folks had posted thier info to a public board, then I’d agree with most here, but they did not.

    Understand the facts before showing your stupidity.


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