The Craigslist Experiment: FAILED


“Don’t worry about lawsuits. They won’t happen.”

Jason Fortuny, October, 2006

Trolls do indeed go down — and they’re just going to start going down harder and harder, mark my words. Jason Fortuny has finally been busted, slapped, and sued. On September 9, 2006 I reported here in full, with images about The Craigslist Experiment (you can see it was originally called “the Craigslist scandal”) and kept the post updated as developments unfolded. I also created a HOWTO: protect yourself from The Craigslist Experiment. In summary, Fortuny posted a bunk Casual Encounters ad then ran all the private info and responses of all respondents. Fortuny argued copyright law abuse; similar to me in how many trolls argue 1st Amendment rights abuse when cornered. Except one John Doe decided to fight back. And won. In the just-posted ‘How I Sued a Craigslist Sex Troll’ by Lou Carbon, “John Doe” tells his story, and more, snip:

(…) In September of 2006, Jason Fortuny posted a personal ad on Craigslist pretending to be a woman seeking kinky sex — and then published sexy pictures and complete emails he received, including any names and phone numbers, from over 150 men. “[T]he chorus of blog posts saying ‘someone ought to sue him’ gave me some satisfaction to being able to do just that,” says Doe, “on behalf of those who wished for justice in this matter.”

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED,” wrote Judge Joan B. Gottschall 30 months later — handing down $74,252.56 in legal fines to Fortuny. Three law firm associates spent had 129.2 hours (at $175 per hour) litigating his 2006 Craigslist prank, plus another 35 hours by the main attorney billed at $275 per hour. As part of the judge’s award, Fortuny will have to pay all their legal fees — a total of $32,365.50 — and he’ll even end up paying the extra costs accrued because he avoided their process servers.

“I hope that it demonstrates that claims (and attorneys) do exist that enable victims to pursue those who commit wrongful acts,” says the victim’s lawyer, Charles Mudd.

“Whenever I questioned ‘why bother doing this’, I just re-read the posts where Fortuny was taunting the victims who begged him to remove their information,” says victim John Doe, “and that renewed my resolve.” In the end, Fortuny’s stubbornness is what led them to court. “He publicly demonstrated his unwillingness to negotiate with others, so I knew that only a hardball response would be effective and that direct contact with him would be a waste of time and tip him off to my plans.”

Ironically, Fortuny was only fined $5,000 for “public disclosure of private facts” and “intrusion upon seclusion.” The remaining bulk of the award — $35,001 — was for violating the plaintiff’s copyright. “The Copyright Act provides for statutory damages from $750 to $35,000 per infringed work,” says Mudd, but those damages “can exceed $35,000 up to an amount of $150,000 per infringed work where the conduct was willful.” This means that ultimately, it was Fortuny’s own “willful” conduct that increased the price he’d eventually have to pay, Mudd argues. “In general, Mr. Fortuny could have limited the amount of damages under the Copyright Act and could have significantly reduced the amount of attorney’s fees throughout the course of this matter.

Fortuny initially argued that the suit against him was “abusing the intent of copyright law, stretching the common law terms of privacy, using unverified e-mail as alternative process, and side stepping personal jurisdiction.” Last summer Fortuny wrote an eight-page letter informing the judge that “I do not have the resources for legal proceedings in another state, much less the exorbitant attorney fees for a Federal copyright case.” But John Doe’s lawyer points out that Fortuny didn’t have to appear in person, and seemed genuinely surprised by the lackluster fight that Fortuny put up. (…read more,, thanks DC!)

Update: I actually like it when you all disagree in the comments. Check this out — it’s trending toward lawmaking but still seems like a body without a head: Trolling someone online? Bill would slap you with jail time (

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  1. I’m not going so far as to call it a great prank, but the punishment is ridiculously over what he deserved. Everything one posts on the internet, especially on unsecure websites to anonymous strangers, is free information – I find it illogical that someone is being punished for it, whether people got hurt or not.

  2. “Three law firm associates spent had 129.2 hours (at $175 per hour) litigating his 2006 Craigslist prank…” “Prank” is much too generous a word.

    Congrats to Doe, and I hope others follow in his footsteps!

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