Legal Freedom Fighter Series: Carrie Goldberg, Champion of Sexual Privacy
We’ve seen it repeatedly throughout our history: When people’s rights are threatened, it’s the lawyers who step up to the plate. Some are true Freedom Fighters, and they deserve special recognition. That’s why each month, we will feature lawyers who are really making a difference.
Today, we are proud to feature Carrie Goldberg. Carrie is the founder of C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, a law firm operating out of Brooklyn, New York, that focuses on Internet privacy and abuse, domestic violence, and sexual consent. Carrie is also a Board Member and Volunteer Attorney at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and its End Revenge Porn campaign. The New Yorker has called Carrie “a pioneer in the field of sexual privacy.” She has provided legal advocacy and representation to hundreds of individuals. Her cases have included, for instance, the removal of intimate images from the Internet, restraining orders to stop online and offline abuse, school disciplinary hearings relating to sexual assault and Title IX, personal injury lawsuits stemming from rape and domestic violence, and representation of high profile individuals being harassed and/or sextorted online.
Here’s the interview:
What inspired you to become a lawyer in the first place?
I’ve always been someone who fights on behalf of the underdogs. My first job in NYC was helping Nazi and Holocaust survivors get reparations and long overdue justice for the horrors they faced. I was inspired by the idea that dollars could attach to suffering and by just how awkward financial reparations are. Money can never take away suffering, but it does provide some justice to make a wrongdoer pay and money can pay for some comfort for the victim. So I went to law school at night while I continued to work that job.
What was your most memorable case?
They are all memorable. We actually have a lot of blackmail cases, representing celebrities, athletes and wealthy business people who are being blackmailed. Sometimes the offender is somebody with whom they had an extramarital relationship or a stranger on the other side of the country that recorded them masturbating to Internet porn. Our job is to go in, use some internet jujitsu to figure out the identity of the blackmailer if it’s not known, assess the threat, and make the problem disappear. Even though the offender is usually breaking the law, our clients don’t want to bring attention to the issue by notifying law enforcers. So we use our own methods.
What drove you to focus on the specific subject of internet privacy and revenge porn?
After I graduated Brooklyn Law, I worked at the Vera Institute of Justice as the Director of Legal Services with a particularly vulnerable client base with financial and medical hardships. I also had personal experience with a vengeful ex, and it made me realize how impossible it was to find a lawyer who understood the intersection of internet, domestic violence, criminal, and privacy law. I opened my law firm in 2014, shortly after he was handed an Order of Protection.
In terms of your work, what is the biggest challenge you face today?
Assholes, perverts, and sociopaths. My biggest challenge is that we live in a culture where people can be really cruel and get away with it. Anonymity on the internet brings out the worst in people.
When it comes to internet privacy, do you believe that the laws haven’t caught up to technology yet? And where do we stand when it comes to laws protecting us from these issues?
Actually, it’s about the laws properly fitting with the times. Our lawsuit against Grindr illustrates that much. My client endured 1000+ men showing up at his home and work for violent sex based on fake Grindr profiles that the company wouldn’t take down despite repeated requests. A 1996 law was created that gives tech companies immunity from lawsuits and criminal prosecutions for criminal behavior occurring on their platforms. That law no longer fits the times. Tech companies are now practically printing money. They don’t deserve this exceptional treatment, and it makes it almost impossible to hold them accountable for abuses on their platform even when they know about them. It’s why the Facebook murder received so much press a few weeks ago. It’s also why many people are outraged by the relentless threat of violence my client faced by Grindr’s inaction.
You’ve had so many successes. Which ones stand out the most for you?
All of them. Any time I obtain an Order of Protection or de-anonymize an offender, I know how much that means to a client. I do have three cases with the Department of Education that involve young black minors who were sexually assaulted at school and then punished by the administration. Those cases are particularly significant because they expose a disturbing pattern of behavior by the DOE that seems bent on hiding the frequency of sexual assaults from the student body, parents, and public at large. The Associated Press actually released a damning article on that issue.
If you could give one piece of advice to other lawyers across the country, what would you say?
Quit your job and start a firm. The freedom to carve your own path is everything.
If an attorney wants to get involved in fighting for internet privacy, how can they get started?
Read Danielle Citron’s Hate Crimes in Cyberspace. Read every single one of the 37 states’ revenge porn laws. You can find them on my site here. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative is also a great resource. I am on the board. The non-profit is committed to educating victims, lawmakers, and attorneys on how to combat non-consensual pornography. It has a 24-hour hotline for victims.
Read about our previous Freedom Fighters here.