In this week’s New Yorker, Margaret Talbot profiles Carrie Goldberg, a thirty-nine-year-old attorney in Brooklyn focusing on sexual privacy and online harassment. “The internet,” in Goldberg’s view, has “given rise to something new in the history of revenge.”
“Historically, we had checks and balances,” she tells Talbot. “If you are someone who is always seeking revenge, that’s going to affect your reputation. But on the internet a guy can be really bad and his friends aren’t necessarily going to know that he’s doing all these shitty things.” The internet, Goldberg suggests, has also made people “more compulsive and impulsive.”
“So many people don’t know how to sit with a thought, whether it’s a good thing—‘Oh, that’s such a pretty landscape, I have to post it on Facebook’—or a bad thing: ‘What do I do with this angry emotion?’”
At bottom, Goldberg is “more of a pragmatist than a theorist” in the fight against online harassment, Talbot writes. The piece details the nature of Goldberg’s work, her practice, and how she moves through the world—how she interacts with clients, judges, other attorneys, the police. The firm she started in 2014 has grown this year, which is something of a mixed blessing:
By this summer, Goldberg had more than thirty-five active clients, and she decided to expand her firm. She hired a senior associate, Lindsay Lieberman, who had worked in the special-victims bureau of the Kings County prosecutor’s office. Goldberg’s public profile was steadily rising. In May, she was invited to the White House for the meeting of a task force about sexual assault in elementary, middle, and high schools. And, since the election of Donald Trump, she says, she’s seen a “drastic uptick” in people seeking her firm’s help—evidence of what she worries is a “new license to be cruel.” Some of the cases have an explicitly political cast. One family’s baby pictures, for example, became memes in an anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory alleging the sexual torture of children.
New York state does not have a nonconsensual-porn—the preferred terminology—statute, although one was introduced to the New York State Assembly in 2014. Two New York City council members, with support from Public Advocate Letitia James, introduced similar legislation to the City Council in September, referring to nonconsensual pornography as “a form of domestic violence.”
Over the summer, Goldberg’s firm asked the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice to open a joint investigation into an alleged “epidemic” of administrative malpractice in the New York City Department of Education. “Whether by official act or omission the end result is that the sexual assault victims suffer twice in NYC DOE,” Goldberg wrote in legal filing: “Once at the hands of the individual that attacked them, and again under the heel of a bureaucracy that is required to act in their best interest.”
The federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has agreed to investigate Goldberg’s allegations—and not a moment too soon, as Goldberg recently pointed out on Twitter: