Miami lawyers’ project helps online victims of revenge porn

Elisa D’Amico and Gordon Glover, immediate past president of The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.
Elisa D’Amico and Gordon Glover, immediate past president of The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Elisa D’Amico, a Miami attorney practicing cyber law, helps embarrassed clients when their private sexy photos and videos fall into the wrong hands and end up online.

D’Amico and her team at K&L Gates founded the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project to help victims of revenge porn — when compromising images of a victim are uploaded without consent to public websites.

She and other attorneys have taken pro-bono cases since the project’s inception two years ago. Many of the victims and perpetrators have different backgrounds and ages, and people reach out to the team for help from all over the world.

D’Amico’s job is to find out who leaked the photos and videos to the internet and to have them taken down. Since 2014, the project has helped more than 300 victims remove thousands of explicit images from online and has resulted in a handful of arrests.

According to The Florida Bar, Florida attorneys last year gave $5.2 million in legal aid and donated roughly 1.7 million hours. D’Amico said that from October 2014 to November 2016, the project has had nearly 1,000 inquiries for help. Of those requests, they’ve provided substantial assistance to over half the people who that have written to her.

“The idea wasn’t to create this beast of a project, but really quickly, that’s what happened. We were picked up by The New York Times in January of 2015, and they talked about some of the work we were doing and from there the inquiries for help just skyrocketed,” D’Amico said. “We have an internet website and a form where people can ask for help. There’s no geographical boundaries. We were seeing requests, and we’re still seeing requests, from all over the globe, not just the U.S., like Latvia, Sweden, Philippines, really all over. We went from an idea to something that really works.”

D’Amico said one of the hardest parts of the job is seeing the stress and emotional turmoil the victims go through.

The work of The Cyber Civil Rights Project is to put an end to the abuse, D’Amico said. Reparation also fuels her and her team to keep working on the cases to bring justice to what seems an obscure and dark part of the internet and social media channels.

“Elisa and the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project saved me,” a victim said in a statement. “They were my first advocate and supporter during my darkest times and have worked endlessly for months to combat the harm that has been done to me and my reputation.”

Florida Bar President Bill Schifino stands behind D’Amico, her team and other attorneys who take on pro-bono cases. When he began practicing law more than 30 years ago, he represented a young undocumented mother in a custody suit. The experience impacted him, and ever since, he’s been encouraging his colleagues and other lawyers to help clients in need.

“Not only do our pro-bono lawyers change the lives of those they help, I truly believe at the end of the day it changes the lives of those lawyers doing that good work,” Schifino said. “At the very core, it shows what a critical role we lawyers can play in society and helping the lives of those that need us most. Whether it be a victim of domestic violence, a veteran, a homeless person, but it’s truly a two-way street. It’s about impacting lives. The justice system should work for all, not just those that can afford it.”

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