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University of Central Florida fraternity members accused of posting revenge porn on Facebook

An Arizona student has filed a lawsuit against a fraternity and several of its members, alleging that some of its bro...

Posted: Jun 16, 2018 2:06 PM
Updated: Jun 16, 2018 2:06 PM

An Arizona student has filed a lawsuit against a fraternity and several of its members, alleging that some of its brothers shared nonconsensual intimate video and photos of her and other women on a private Facebook group.

According to the complaint filed in a Florida district court on Wednesday, the woman had a long-distance relationship with one of the fraternity brothers at University of Central Florida Delta Sigma Phi's chapter in Orlando.

The complaint alleges that in October, he shared intimate videos and images of her, obtained through their relationship, on a secret Facebook page called the "Dog Pound." The private page was "where fraternity brothers routinely posted electronic video and images of their sexual 'conquests,'" according to the complaint.

CNN left multiple messages seeking comment from the UCF Delta Sigma Phi chapter and the fraternity's national alumni association, but has not received a reply. Someone picked up the phone at the UCF chapter and referred inquiries to the national fraternity, which did not immediately respond to emails.

The New York Times reported on Thursday evening that Delta Sigma Phi said it suspended its chapter at UCF.

"While we cannot comment on specific allegations made in the lawsuit, these claims are disturbing and antithetical to our organization's values and mission," the fraternity said, according to the Times.

The videos and images posted to the page were allegedly obtained through sexual encounters. Some of the videos and images were of "unsuspecting women," the complaint says.

While the plaintiff, Kathryn Novak, engaged in consensual sexual activities with him, her partner, Brandon Simpson, recorded at least one instance and shared it without her knowledge, according to the complaint. CNN is seeking comment from Simpson.

Novak is being represented by Michael Avenatti, who is best known as the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Avenatti said there have been "a number of women victimized by this and many videos posted."

"It was something bragged about," he said of the "Dog Pound" page.

Four other fraternity brothers are also named in the suit; they are believed to have viewed the video of Novak.

The woman is seeking an injunction to prevent the further spread of the content online, as well as at least $75,000 in compensatory, statutory and punitive damages.

University of Central Florida sent the following statement to CNN: "These allegations are contrary to our core values. Although UCF is not a party to the suit, we are gathering information. If anyone believes they may have been impacted in this case, UCF wants to hear from you. Visit www.LetsBeClear.ucf.edu to learn about options for filing a report and seeking assistance."

The complaint alleges that UCF permitted the culture that allowed the incident to occur, but the school is not named in the lawsuit.

CNN attempted to reach the Delta Sigma Phi national organization, as well as its UCF chapter, but was unable to get any comment.

The use of a private Facebook page and other online sites to spread nonconsensual pornography -- which is also commonly referred to as "revenge porn" -- isn't a new phenomenon. Closed Facebook groups were at the center of a Penn State fraternity case, in which men were allegedly posting compromising pictures of women on a private Facebook page, as well as a nude photo scandal involving the Marines.

While Facebook has been working to help combat the spread of revenge porn, it also is grappling with hidden groups that share content that could violate its standards.

The company has a ban on nudity on its platform, and Facebook says it removes intimate images that are not consensually shared as it becomes aware of them. Content moderation is also a volume issue; millions of content reports flood its system weekly.

One in eight American social media users has been a target of nonconsensual pornography, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

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