Lying in bed at 1am in his Vancouver apartment this past March, Cohen Landherr, 22, received an unexpected wake-up call: “Dude, someone put our sex video on the internet.”
“What are you talking about?” Landherr asked his former lover on the other end of the line.
“Someone created this fake profile on dudesnude named ‘cock lover’ with photos of you and the video of you giving me head.”
At the caller’s behest Landherr got out of bed and went to dudesnude, a gay male dating site serving 150,000 men worldwide, and opened his page. To his surprise, there he was, naked, starring for the world in homemade porn. The video had been stolen from his computer.
Landherr and the caller both contacted dudesnude immediately and the profile was taken down. Because of privacy laws, however, dudesnude could not release the identity of the phantom uploader.
“Fake/abuse profiles are suspended when they are reported to us,” says Phil Anderson, webmaster for dudesnude, noting that he receives one to four such reports per day. “The profile owner has a chance to contest the suspension by uploading a verification picture. This picture is then compared by our admin team to the pictures in their profile. Normally in such situations, the creator of the profile does not contest the suspension.”
Thinking that perhaps the whole thing had been a practical joke, Landherr carried on as normal. A few days later other friends started calling. They wanted to know if the sexual invitations Landherr was sending to them via dudesnude were serious. The video was back.
Landherr contacted dudesnude again, which deleted the latest profile and permanently suspended the account of the abuser — but it didn’t stop there. Unable to post on dudesnude, the video surfaced on another gay dating site, Manhunt. That’s when Landherr contacted the police.
“They were super nice, but it didn’t seem to be that big of a deal to them. I thought somehow they would be able to protect my identity and help me figure out who it was,” Landherr tells Xtra. To his shock he also learned that what was happening to him wasn’t illegal, and there was nothing the police could do.
“There is no criminal offence committed unless someone produces and/or disseminates images involving a minor on the internet. However, civil remedies may be possible in some cases,” Vancouver Police spokesperson Constable Jana McGuinness tells Xtra.
McGuinness recommends not making such videos in the first place and taking extra care of sensitive files that are already in existence.
“I love the internet, but at the same time, you can be anyone and anyone can be you,” Landherr says. “It’s like there is nothing to protect you on the internet. The laws against identity theft and stuff like that are really archaic.”
Despite the potential damage to a person’s reputation, those looking for a change in the laws or enforcement surrounding revenge profiles shouldn’t expect it anytime soon.
“I don’t see any appetite by authorities to criminalize more behaviour,” says Dan Burnett, a Vancouver media lawyer and privacy expert.
Without the help of the law, Landherr was left to solve the case on his own, narrowing down a short list of his closest friends who had access to his computer and a dudesnude profile. Pretending to have found the perpetrator, Landherr called the ex he suspected most and told him that police had identified the culprit and were going to that person’s house the next day to confiscate the video, and that he was going to press charges.
The ex broke down and confessed. He also deleted the video.
At the end of the day, Landherr says, this is not a case of the internet gone bad, but rather a lesson in taking better care in choosing the people you trust. “Do you know what kills me the most? I was bitching about this situation to him and he was lying straight to my face.”