LOS ANGELES—What may be the most notoriously hateful and destructive website in the history of adult entertainment has been forced offline by a determined group of outraged individuals from inside and outside the industry who simply refused to accept the idea that Pornwikileaks was permitted to remain online for as long as it did.
Though many are holding their breaths waiting to see if it will return, one of the men responsible for taking it down says it isn’t coming back anytime soon, and sends a stern warning that anyone thinking about doing anything similar had better think twice before pressing Enter.
First put online sometime around the end of March/beginning of April 2011, the reasons Pornwikileaks was created are as murky and senseless as the final product itself, not least because its creators were purposefully anonymous. Still, the name of a former porn performer and sometime producer, Donny Long, was quickly attached to the site, and with his name the assumption that the site arose from a longstanding feud between Long and a couple of adult talent agents.
It was further alleged at the beginning that Long and other posters to PWL embraced the site because of their supposed opposition to porn performers working both the straight and gay sides of the industry, presumably putting other performers at risk of STD infections. But the vitriol that quickly ensued put the lie to any principled purpose. As a steady stream of homophobic as well as ethnic, racial and sexist slurs came to typify the posts, the posting of personal information, not just about performers, but also their families and friends came to be the overriding objective of the website, an objective that was as irrational as it was senseless and cruel.
In short order, the entire industry was more or less gripped with a sort of fear unknown before this site came online. When word came that much of the presumably private information posted to PWL came from a breach of the AIM database, the mainstream suddenly took notice. Not only was AIM under attack from groups like the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which was proselytizing for mandatory condom usage on all porn sets, but now it was presumably responsible for allowing its database to be accessed by the operators of a hate speech site determined to destroy any semblance of privacy porn performers thought they had.
It was, according to Mike South, the industry veteran, irrepressible blogger and the public face of the PWL opponents, like nothing the business had seen before.
“I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before,” he told AVN late last week, in the aftermath of the site’s disappearance. It was, he added, “A magnitude of evil beyond anything Luke Ford did on his worst day.”
Ford, of course, was vilified back in the day when he “outed” the name of an adult performer who had contracted AIDS. PWL was that sort of public dissemination of normally private information, but on steroids accompanied by an unheard-of element of hatred.
Before long, said South, who posted what seemed like daily posts about PWL to his blog, he was being deluged by performers either being terrorized on the site or in dire fear of finding their real names and addresses there, or worse, the names and addresses of their families and friends. Why, he wondered, wasn’t anyone doing anything about it?
“The FSC wasn’t going to do anything,” he said. “Steve Hirsch was making offers to poor parents, so he wasn’t going to do anything either. So we pooled our resources and money and got it done.”
In terms of who these people are, South readily admitted that while in many ways he has been the face of the fight against PWL, he is hardly the only person involved in the battle to take the site offline. “I could line up a dozen people not involved in the industry who lent their talents to this fight, and more within the industry. I appreciate each and every one of them.”
He said there was a sense of urgency to the campaign. “Girls were calling me who were on the verge of suicide. Even Joanne from the Free Speech Coalition was sending girls to me. What was it going to take to do something?”
In fact, it turned out that the FSC was not doing nothing, but what it was doing was a far cry from the aggressive and more immediate and hands-on efforts undertaken by the group represented by South.
AVN spoke to FSC executive director Diane Duke for this article, and asked for a comment on the takedown of PWL and the suggestion that it was doing nothing about the site.
“Kudos to those instrumental in bringing the site down,” Duke told AVN. “Utilizing skilled hackers working outside the authorities, it looks as if this group was able to mitigate further damage to performers. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.”
She added, “The Free Speech Coalition has been the primary liaison with law enforcement working to bring those who committed serious criminal acts against the performer community to justice. It is critical that would be attackers understand that the adult entertainment community will not tolerate illegal attacks on the privacy of our performers.”
Indeed, the PWL story appears far from over. Law enforcement investigations are still underway, and according to South, Long, who currently lives in Thailand, will be facing some unique challenges there both professionally and legally. Not wishing to get specific, he did say that there is a significant adult webmaster community in Thailand that is as appalled at the PWL, as is the majority of the industry, and alluded to other law enforcement entities who may have the expat on their radar.
“Donny is in a lot of potential trouble in Thailand,” he said.
The story may not be over in the States, either. A number of known members of the industry were themselves outed as posters, as were people who have nothing directly to do with the industry. One woman has even filed a Small Claims lawsuit against someone who helped disseminate the names of PWL posters on various chat boards, claiming defamation. While the suit appears to have dubious merit, it points to a complicated and unfolding scenario in which each side claims to have been abused in the PWL saga.
In terms of PWL posters, though, as well as those who put ads on the site or who communicated sympathetically in emails with Long during the ordeal, South has nothing but contempt, saying that it is pure and unadulterated hate and greed that has motivated everyone associated with the site. The industry, he said, has got to say, “enough.”
“That’s what disturbs me the most about this, that people in this industry would be a part of it," he said, adding, “We need to take out the trash in this business.”
After a slight pause, he added, optimistically, “It’s happening. It’s happening now.”
Calling the people who perpetrated the PWL crime “sociopathic and evil,” South said that he is nonetheless encouraged that some who posted to the site have apologized profusely to him for having taken part in it, and also that people within the industry have been quick to condemn those who posted to the site, even going so far as to terminate their employment. It's an indication that the industry can pull together to work in its collective interest.
Going forward, the lesson for any prospective miscreants is clear, he said. If you think you can do something like this and get away with it, you are sorely mistaken. From the money man behind the scenes to the ex-patriot organizing the evil effort, to the bottom-feeders posting vitriol or trying to benefit from the site’s traffic, there is no place to hide.
”You may think you’re anonymous on the internet,” promised South, “but you are not.”
That’s why, he said before ringing off, more likely than not, the industry has seen its last Pornwikileaks and the evildoers who would perpetrate such a strange and senseless transgression.
Check back as AVN speaks with other participants in the PWL saga.