Encryption service Tor has been caught up in a Texas revenge porn lawsuit. Yesterday, attorney Jason Lee Van Dyke linked to a lawsuit filing against Pink Meth, a nude photos site accessible only to users of the encryption software. The complaint accuses Pink Meth of offenses that include potentially distributing child pornography and gaining unauthorized access to privately hosted nude photos, neither of which are uncommon ways to go after a revenge porn site. But Van Dyke's case also extends to Tor, which he says is guilty of conspiring with Pink Meth by helping it operate.

According to Van Dyke, the two organizations "had a meeting of the minds" in order to let Pink Meth publish photographs of women without their consent while letting the site's operators and visitors escape legal consequences. In addition to uploading photographs sent by users, Pink Meth posts contact and social media information of subjects. Among the victims was college student Shelby Conklin, who has been filing suits against Pink Meth and various hosting services since 2012. A settlement with Verisign temporarily took down the site's main domain, but it's continued to operate under various addresses. Van Dyke equates Tor and its anonymous web tools with traditional hosting services, calling it an example of "unscrupulous internet service companies" that "allow illegal websites like Pink Meth to remain anonymous and difficult for authorities to shut down."

Pink Meth, which dedicates part of its front page to thumbing its nose at critics, prominently thanks Tor for making it possible to operate and urges users to donate to the project. But Tor is agnostic about the capabilities it enables, which range from getting around oppressive government firewalls to buying illegal drugs. It has no hand in "registering" sites that use it, even if Van Dyke claims that Pink Meth's operation signifies "continued tolerance and endorsement." The servers behind hidden services are difficult to find and shut down, and law enforcement so far has only been able to do so by looking for sloppy user behavior to exploit. But among other requests against search engines and social networks, the petition asks for domain name registers and hosting companies "including Tor" to be restricted from providing any internet-related services to Pink Meth until the trial is concluded. It also asks for at least $1 million as a result of emotional distress and the detrimental effects on Conklin's planned career in law enforcement.

Since last year, state lawmakers have pushed for new revenge porn laws

The Tor Project declined to comment on the suit, saying that it "cannot discuss active cases." But its presence in the suit is unusual. Revenge porn sites, which non-consensually post photos of subjects (often sent by ex-boyfriends), have become an increasingly large target for legal action, but they've proven notoriously difficult to prosecute, especially if the victim took the photograph and knowingly sent it to someone else. Some prosecutors have gone after sites that allegedly hacked private accounts to get nude photographs or posed as someone else to obtain them, while others have attempted to use existing "Peeping Tom" laws. Over the past year, lawmakers have pushed to make those laws more stringent. California became the second state to sign a law expressly criminalizing revenge porn in October; since then, Maryland, Utah, and others have passed similar laws. Texas has proved sympathetic to victims before, awarding half a million dollars in damages to one plaintiff earlier this year.

Van Dyke, who bills himself as "quite possibly the meanest and most right-wing lawyer in Texas," linked to the suit this morning as part of a series of taunts on Twitter. After a critic said that suing Tor for Pink Meth's actions was like "suing an automaker because their car was used in a bank robbery," he contended that "I can always dismiss them later. That's not going to stop me from destroying Pink Meth." The suit itself was filed late last month, and he alluded to it as part of an online exchange with Pink Meth. "I sent The Tor Project a little present of my own today. Shhh. It's a surprise!" he said in one tweet on June 24th.

Pink Meth responded: "LOL, the only one in for a surprise is you."