Google threatened with $100-million lawsuit over celebrity nude photos

Emily Ratajkowski, left, Jennifer Lawrence and Vanessa Hudgens are a few of the celebrities who have seen their private photos illegally obtained and then posted online in a massive hack that went public starting Labor Day weekend.
(Joshua Blanchard / Getty Images, left; Dan Steinberg, Associated Press, center; Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images, right)

A celebrity attorney whose firm represents more than a dozen high-profile women whose personal photos were stolen and then posted online has threatened Google with a lawsuit potentially seeking $100 million or more in damages related to the distribution of those images.

The Internet giant, however, said Thursday that it had quickly taken down “tens of thousands of pictures” and “closed hundreds of accounts” related to the photo hacking incident, which is being investigated by the FBI.

Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were among the first celebs targeted when the pictures went online over Labor Day weekend on sites including 4chan and Reddit. Since then, personal photos of many other famous women whose Apple iCloud accounts were hacked have been similarly disseminated.


Attorney Martin Singer’s Wednesday letter accused the Internet giant of failing to act quickly and effectively when asked to remove the personal pictures from sites it owns, including YouTube and Blogspot.

The letter referenced “over a dozen female celebrities, actresses, models and athletes” whose photos had been stolen, without mentioning specific names. Amber Heard, Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Hudgens, Emily Ratajkowski, Megan Good and others are among those who had pictures stolen.

“[B]ecause the victims are celebrities with valuable publicity rights, you do nothing - - nothing but collect millions of dollars in advertising revenue from your co-conspirator advertising partners as you seek to capitalize on this scandal rather than quash it,” the letter said. “Like the NFL, which turned a blind eye while its players assaulted and victimized women and children, Google has turned a blind eye while its sites repeatedly exploit and victimize these women.”

The letter demanded that Google remove all of the stolen images from sites it owns, suspend users who posted the pictures, suspend sites that solicit or facilitate the distribution of the pictures, and remove related results from its search-engine returns.

The Internet company whose motto is “Don’t be evil” responded publicly on Thursday.

“We’ve removed tens of thousands of pictures -- within hours of the requests being made -- and we have closed hundreds of accounts,” a Google spokeperson told the Los Angeles Times in a statement.


“The Internet is used for many good things. Stealing people’s private photos is not one of them.”

According to Singer’s letter, the first request was sent to Google four weeks ago, with more than a dozen additional nudges following.

The demand letter was addressed to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who also serves as chief executive, exec chairman Eric E. Schmidt and top members of the company’s legal team.

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.

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