Brooklyn-based lawyer Carrie Goldberg knew nothing about revenge porn—until she became the victim of it. The pawn of an ex-boyfriend’s online and offline sexual extortion, Goldberg says she started her own law firm to become the lawyer she needed when she was under attack.
Two months after receiving a restraining order, she opened C.A. Goldberg, where she worked as a one-woman show until the outfit gained traction. Since its inception, C.A. Goldberg has removed over 18,000 revenge porn images from the internet, obtained 88 orders of protection and is currently litigating five cases against Harvey Weinstein.
Goldberg shared her story and several others to a largely female audience in Kresge Auditorium last night. Contemplating the notion of privacy, she asked her audience to close their eyes and envision their biggest secrets—things Googled, buried lies, hidden curiosities.
“I want you to imagine if your name was typed into a search engine and the first five pages of results were dominated by things about you and that secret of yours—how would you feel?” she asked.
This is the crux of Goldberg’s practice, which demands justice for targets of blackmail, sexual assault and stalking. Goldberg uses law as a tool of creative resistance, straddling the line between victims’ rights and internet privacy.
She described her clients as victims of “psychos, assholes, perverts and trolls.”
Social media companies like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Grindr and even Google can be the most harmful perpetrators of online sexual abuse, Goldberg said.
“In the last four years, there’s been such a pivot—kind of a groundswell of recognition—that tech is really something that can destroy lives,” she said. “It’s not that tech is the problem, but the people who are using it are.”
Goldberg’s practice is gaining traction at a crucial moment with the #MeToo movement and the rapid digitization of our social lives.
“With the internet we can’t really escape our pasts,” she said. “And we lose control over parts of our future.”
Goldberg was invited to Bowdoin by Associate Director of Gender Violence Prevention and Education Lisa Peterson, who was struck by Goldberg’s grasp on both technology and the law. Peterson noted that many students are unaware of the challenges that their peers can face.
“On campus there’s more going on than students realize—students experiencing stalking or monitoring through their social media accounts” Peterson said.
“So I think raising people’s awareness of that and having really hard conversations about [that is important but it is also] responsibility of these tech companies to be more proactively protecting users,”
Tech companies are protected in the Communication Decency Act of 1996, but Goldberg was hopeful that recent events regarding Cambridge Analytica’s fraudulently obtained Facebook data might convince users to hold social media companies responsible for the abuse that occurs on their platforms.
“The firm stands for the fact that every single one of us is a moment away from crossing paths with somebody hellbent on our downfall,” Goldberg said. “We believe that nobody should intentionally violate another person—not physically, not emotionally, not financially, not sexually, not online, not offline, not the person sitting next to you, not the president of the United States.”
Monica Xing ’19 took away valuable lessons from the lecture.
“In the modern age of technology we’re all so vulnerable,” she said. “What Carrie said about how we’re all one step away from being victims of online abuse—it’s so relevant to our lives. I’ll be more alert of what I post but also the platforms that I choose to use in the future.”
Mollie Eisner contributed to this report.