Like other revenge porn sites, WinByState specialized in posting sexually explicit photographs, often submitted by jilted ex-lovers, without the subject's permission. It encouraged users to "trade your ex-girlfriend, your current girlfriend, or any other girl that you might know.” But Meyering, 28, allegedly added another twist to the business model: He demanded that victims cough up as much as $250 to get their photos removed.
Meyering was arrested in Tulsa on Thursday. He's now awaiting an extradition hearing to send him to California, where he's charged with five felony extortion counts, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced in a press release Friday.
“This behavior is the very definition of predatory and this website made a game out of humiliating victims for profit,” Harris said. “These actions at their core are about one individual exploiting the privacy and trust of others for financial gain."
Police began investigating WinByState after an unidentified woman in California discovered photos of herself on the site and notified authorities. Meyering's site turned revenge porn into something of a game, where users were encouraged to upload proof of their "wins"—sleeping with women and taking nude photos of them—on a state-by-state basis. When victims asked Meyering to take down the photos, he'd direct them to a Google Wallet account (called "the TakeDownHammer") and demand a $250 payment.
After paying for one victim's "takedown," police traced the funds to Meyering's account in a Tulsa bank. Surveillance footage from the bank showed Meyering withdrawing money from the account, though his identity had been outed long before police traced money from his victims. In June 2013, James McGibney, the owner of anti-bullying site Bullyville, and legal blogger Adam Steinbaugh, published a litany of evidence that identified Meyering as WinByState's owner.
California is making revenge porn a dangerous business. In October 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown outlawed revenge porn outright, making it a misdemeanor to post identifiable nude pictures of another person without their permission. Perpetrators face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in prison. Last December, Attorney General Harris charged Kevin Bollaert, 27, with 31 felony counts for his role in operating the revenge porn site ugotposted.com.
And last month, FBI agents arrested Hunter Moore, probably the most infamous proprietor of revenge porn, in Sacramento. At one point, Moore's site, Is Anyone Up, was seeing more than 300,000 visitors a day. As stories of the site's victims spread, Moore seemed to revel in the controversy, causing Rolling Stone to name him "most hated man on the Internet"—a nickname that stuck. The 15 count federal indictment against Moore alleges that he and an accomplice hacked into victims' computers and stole their nude photos, then uploaded them to the site.
Before his arrest, Moore had also tussled with McGibney, the Bullyville owner—a legal battle he lost. In March 2013, Moore was forced to pay $250,000 in compensation for defamatory statements. McGibney is also pursuing a class action lawsuit against Moore.