What we know about the FetLife fetish site
(CNN) — It bills itself as “like Facebook, but run by kinksters.”
It claims to have almost 6 million members. And it’s suddenly in the spotlight because of the recent disappearance of a Chinese graduate student at the University of Illinois.
It is FetLife, a website for bondage and kink fans. The FBI says suspect Brendt Christensen visited a FetLife forum called “Abduction 101” before kidnapping Yingying Zhang on June 9 in Urbana.
She remains missing and is believed dead. Christensen was arrested Friday but has yet to enter a plea.
FetLife has not commented publicly about the case. The site has not responded to multiple emails sent by CNN.
How FetLife works
It says its members have shared more than 30 million photos and videos and joined more than 7 million discussions.
“Kinky heaven!” it says on the site’s landing page.
“FetLife is the Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community,” the site says. “Like Facebook, but run by kinsters like you and me. We think it is more fun that way. Don’t you?”
The site’s “about” page gives physical addresses in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and in Nicosia, Cyprus.
That page shows photos and monikers for 16 people. Two say they live in Antarctica. Several say “I help people.”
To access content, you must create a profile, which is free, by entering a nickname and selecting a gender and sexual orientation (each with 11 choices, plus “not applicable”).
You can choose from several dozen roles, including dominant, kinkster, swinger and brat.
Other criminal cases
The Illinois case is not the first time FetLife has been mentioned in a criminal investigation.
A Haverhill, New York man was charged in April with making and distributing child pornography. Authorities say an undercover FBI task force officer first came into contact with the man on FetLife.
And in Australia, a man who used the pseudonym “The Wolf” on FetLife has denied charges he raped a woman in 2015 at a hotel after meeting her on the site.
CNN’s Theresa Waldrop and Lisa Rose contributed to this report.