You can never be too careful when sending and sharing personal images online or via text. Dr. Philip Sobash is under fire for asking women to take lewd images of themselves. Instead of keeping them private, he posted them publicly online, while encouraging his “fans” to harass the women on websites like Reddit, according to a federal lawsuit filed last Friday.
Flirting Over Text
Dr. Philip Sobash has enjoyed a celebrated career as an internal medicine resident at White River Medical Center in Arkansas. He received his MD from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine and has contributed to over a dozen medical journals over the years.
Now, he’s the subject of a sweeping federal lawsuit. The case was brought by a 21-year-old nursing student at California State University who says she met Sobash while using an online dating platform in 2018.
According to the suit, the plaintiff, who has only been identified as Jane Doe, says she began sending nude images of herself to Sobash at his request – with the agreement that he would keep them private. Doe says she reminded Sobash not to share the images once a week.
The doctor allegedly paid the nursing student $75 a week for approximately 10 explicit videos/images, but instead of keeping his word, he published them on the internet.
“The defendant always responded with comforting statements of assurance that he would never share the photographs with anyone,” Doe alleges in the suit.
After a while, the requests became more explicit. Doe says Sobash “would make very unusual requests” during the arrangement, including sending her “props like sex toys and nursing machines to photograph herself with, and then he would direct her.”
The suit alleges that Sobash would then turn around and also sell these images to people on websites and revenge porn platforms.
In 2019, Doe says she received a direct message on Instagram showing a screenshot of one of the posts on Reddit with her images. That’s when she realized Sobash was selling these images as commercial porn.
“Her poses were actually made-to-order requests that Sobash was getting from anonymous men online, and then Dr. Sobash would pretend that they were his personal requests, and he manipulated the relationship he had with Jane Doe by making these specific requests as if they were merely his own personal fetishes,” the suit states.
“Dr. Sobash was receiving requests for particular scenarios from his ‘customers,’ and he would then act as the producer of these pornographic images, made for commercial gain, and then he would distribute them to his customers,” the lawsuit continues.
“[Doe] was unaware that she was being used as an unknowing commercial pornographic actress,” the suit adds. Court documents show that Sobash claimed he was hacked when Doe eventually confronted him about the leak.
Several years later, there are still around 300 photos of Doe online available for purchase on various pornographic websites, according to the lawsuit.
The experience left Doe feeling violated. She says she’s suffered mental and emotional pain from all the unwelcome images and messages she’s received from men that have viewed her photos online, some of which have threatened to expose her to her friends, family, and faculty at her nursing school.
According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, websites and digital publishers cannot be held liable for the content posted to their platforms. This rule has come under increasing scrutiny over the years as misinformation and disturbing content proliferates on social media. Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have recently called for changing the law, so companies would have more of a responsibility to police the content published on their platforms.
According to the suit, Doe now spends multiple hours a day filing copyright infringement requests to have the images taken down. She says she was also forced to delete her Instagram account, which had around 15,000 followers at the time, after being subjected to online harassment and abuse. The suit also says she now suffers from anxiety and depression because of Sobash’s actions.
“[Doe] suffers intrusive thoughts that the strangers on the internet who have consumed her nude pictures and harass her will harm her family. She feels hopeless about her career prospects because of the stalking by the online harassers and the threats of sending the images to her employers for the rest of her life,” the lawsuit states.
This isn’t the first time Sobash has faced these kinds of allegations. According to another suit, he has “multiple other victims, some of whom are underage.”
Neither Sobash nor his employer have responded to requests for comment.