maryann-sahoury

Mom sues when breastfeeding video ends up on porn sites

Aug. 10, 2012 at 6:15 PM ET

By Jacoba Urist

While conducting a Google search for her name, Maryann Sahoury came across a horrifying discovery.  A video of herself breastfeeding her daughter had been edited into a pornographic video linked on numerous websites.

Back in January 2010, the 35-year old mother had agreed to participate in an instructional video about breastfeeding.  The video, produced by Meredith Corporation, an Iowa based media and marketing company, was part of an educational series on their Parents TV and Cable channel.  The video producer assured her that the material would only be used for the educational video, and that only her first name would be used, according to NBC News New York. But the company ended up posting the video on YouTube with her full name included. Someone then spliced the video clip into a pornographic film.

The Fair Lawn, N.J., mom filed a lawsuit against Meredith Corp, publisher of such magazines as Family Circle and Ladies Home Journal,  in U.S. District Court in Newark, alleging, among other things, that the company breached its “duty of reasonable care to protect [Sahoury and her daughter] from careless exposure on the Internet.” Last week, Judge Katherine S. Hayden overruled Meredith Corp’s motion to dismiss and let the case proceed.

“I didn’t get paid to do this. I didn’t want to be some sort of celebrity,” Sahoury told the Associated Press.

Breastfeeding didn’t come easy for her. When her daughter was born in December 2009,  Sahoury had trouble nursing and went to a lactation consultant, who later asked Sahoury if she wanted to appear in an instructional video to demonstrate nursing techniques for other mothers.

“Breastfeeding for me was the most rewarding thing I had ever done in my life,” She told NBC 4 New York. “I wanted to share that with people. I really wanted to give back.”

Sahoury's full name was used in the video, the lawsuit states, yielding the Google results. The lawsuit also claims the video was placed on YouTube, when Sahoury was told it would appear only on Parents TV and cable television. Her lawsuit is seeking an order prohibiting the defendants from using the video featuring her and her daughter for any purpose; it also seeks attorney fees, the AP reported.

"It was terrifying," Sahoury said to the Associated Press. "It was like I can't even control my life and it was spiraling out of control."

Art Slusark, a Meredith spokesperson, responded about Sahoury’s lawsuit to TODAY.com via email.

“Meredith took immediate and substantial action when made aware of the situation, and we have gone above and beyond any contractual responsibilities, expending a substantial amount of time and money. We have hired leading law firms to file take-down demands and retained top Internet specialists to both clear online caches and create positive references. We are confident that the steps we have taken are helping to mitigate the issue. We are continuing these good-faith efforts even after Ms. Sahoury filed her lawsuit.”

Protecting yourself
What should a parent do if they Google themselves or their child and find pictures or videos of their family posted on inappropriate websites?

Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of Reputation.com, says people should try to control their “Google real estate” as much as they can before there’s a privacy issue. Reputation.com helps businesses and individual manage and protect their online reputations.

“The sad truth about the Internet is that you don’t have to have your breasts exposed to wind up on a pornographic site like [Sahoury] did,” Fertik explains. “In today’s world, you don’t want to have your Internet flank exposed. You need to control your Google real estate before someone else does.”

He advises people to make sure they have social media profiles on places like Twitter and LinkedIn with their full name in the URL column so that they, at least, control the first page of their Google hits.  By adding your full name in each social media URL, you help control which links appear first in a standard Google-type search.

Ironically, publicity obout Sahoury's case might have helped bury the video online by creating many new Google hits with her full name on news sites. 

“Eighty percent of people who search for you,” Fertik says, “won’t go below the first page of the search engine.”

The bad news: It’s almost impossible to scrub content from pornographic websites.

“Many pornography websites are overseas and therefore legally unreachable,” says Eric Goldman, director of Santa Clara University School of Law’s High Tech Law Institute. Sahoury has taken the most logical step, engaging in reputation management, and that’s almost always a better cost-benefit option than legal ones.” 

Jacoba Urist is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She covers legal, financial and parenting news. Her writing has appeared on Forbes, The Atlantic and Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Follow her on twitter @TheHappiestPare 

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