The movie Sex Tape hinges on its lead couple finding it impossible to remove their raunchy homemade porno from the apparently unfathomable depths of iCloud. Their predicament is appealingly modern, if not all that realistic (as GQ proved). It got me thinking, though: How hard is it to remove a sexually explicit video you've made from the horny corners of the internet?
If you're a celebrity or the video gets very popular, it's pretty much impossible to scrub all traces of sex tape from the web. Like a many-headed hydra but with digitally documented dicks, bootleg versions of Kim K's tape resurface on sites like YouPorn just as quickly as they're taken down, and there's really no way to completely remove it. People can download and torrent the videos, proliferating them until they're too spread out to ever completely eradicate. But most of us are not Kardashian Kaliber sex-doers. For non-celebrities who regret posting their stinky-bit tango online, there are steps that can limit how many eyes see your video. And contrary to the dumbass plot of Sex Tape, none of them involve manually destroying your friends' iPads.
Obviously, if you posted a video yourself, you can just remove it. Simple! But what if someone else has gotten hold of your bawdy butt broadcast? Whether it's a jilted bae with bad morals, or a horndog hacker, that's where it gets more complicated. But all is not lost.
I talked to the RedTube support team to find out what one needs to do to scrub the site of their video. Even if you didn't post the video, if you put in a takedown request, they'll honor it. "We ask for the users full name along with photo proof that they are the person in the video. We usually ask for a photo of the person visibly holding up a piece of ID," a friendly support staffer named Franca told me.
PornHub has a similar approach. "We remove videos immediately as soon as any issue is brought to our attention," marketing manager Matt Blake said. "Whether people are asking because they don't want it up, or if its the case of revenge porn it's important to us to act quickly. We have a support form which is the best place to contact us regarding these types of matters."
This is great news if you're in a revenge porn situation. "Revenge porn" is the term used to describe what happens when someone acts like a monumental dirtbag and posts explicit videos or photos of their ex without their permission. So if someone you used to trust has betrayed you and put your sex tape online, you can fight to get it taken down. There's a growing movement to outlaw revenge porn, and the team at End Revenge Porn are a good resource.
That's the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Holly Jacobs, the founder of End Revenge Porn, refers people to a service called DMCA Defender. They offer free services to underage revenge porn victims, and discounts to adults in similar situations. They can guarantee removal from certain sites, like myex.com, and often remove videos from multiple sites in a matter of hours.
Another option Jacobs recommends: you can go to the DMCA website and order takedown requests yourself. It's more hassle, but you won't have to pay anyone.
If someone else posted your sex tape online without your consent and you can't get it down by directly contacting the host site or through the DMCA, check to see if you live in a state with laws against revenge porn. You can file a police report to spur its removal. New York-based attorney C.A. Goldberg has a list of states with similar laws on the books, including Texas, California, and New Jersey.
If someone else has posted your video without your consent, you can try the "American Way." That is, sue them.
You most likely will not win a case against websites who host the videos, since Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects websites from legal action based on content uploaded by third parties. But you can sue the garbage-person third party who posted the video. And you might be granted a civil protection order so they have to take it down.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby