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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

The Celebrity Photo Hack Isn't Just A Privacy Issue

Phoenix Tso |
September 5, 2014 | 5:45 a.m. PDT



A recent Neon Tommy op-ed suggested Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were entitled for speaking out against the people who leaked private naked photos of them online. They were supposedly complaining about a loss of privacy that as celebrities they aren’t entitled to, and which the rest of us have no expectation of having, supposedly.

This, however, is to absolve the perpetrators for their bad behavior, and to misunderstand how people on the Internet treat women, famous or not.

READ MORE: Celebrities Want To Have Their Cake And Selfie It Too

Here’s a refresher in case you forgot what happened.

Last Sunday, nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence appeared on websites like Reddit and 4chan, soon to be seen by millions on the Internet. This leak quickly grew to include the photos – whether real or not – of over 100 celebrities, the vast majority of them female.

NT Contributor Andy Vasoyan is right in saying that this happens to a lot of people in our day and age. What he’s missing is that this happens far more to women, which studies by the Pew Research Center and other organizations have found (read a summary in Amanda Hess’ excellent article on the subject), and that the resulting harassment takes on a distinctly misogynist tone, ranging from comments about a woman’s appearance to rape threats against her.

Need other examples? There’s Hunter Moore, who made a career out of publishing naked photos of women without their consent. In January, the FBI indicted him for hacking into private computers in order to obtain these images. There are also the 4chan users who have targeted Gawker Media women’s website Jezebel for months, by flooding comment sections with rape porn GIFs. There are even the trolls who harassed Zelda Williams with fake pictures of her father’s body after she had the audacity to grieve about him on Twitter. The celebrity nude photo hack has happened within this context, and we must recognize that.

READ MORE: Now That I'm Older, It's OK To Objectify Me

Additionally, in this context, the celebrity nude photo hack is about much more than the actions of “a few peeping/hacking Toms.” It’s about millions of Internet users either creating a disgusting subreddit called r/TheFappening in celebration of this invasion of privacy, or about famous men with millions of Twitter followers chastising these women for daring to be sexual.

The reaction, in all its crude and sexist glory, is widespread.

As women, we have a right not only to express our sexuality as we see fit, but to control who is on the receiving end of that expression. It doesn’t matter if we do this on the Internet, which is less secure than perhaps a stashed away Polaroid. People still need to respect these rights even if they have the tools to easily exploit and invade it. This is true even if we have willingly given up other private details to Facebook, Gmail and other websites. This is true even if some of the women in question enjoy privileges that others don’t have.

Perhaps the FBI has gotten involved in Moore’s case and in the celebrity photo hacking case because of the prominence of the people involved (though Moore’s victims were mostly non-famous). That’s unfortunate if true, but still better than nothing. So many other authority figures have been slow in protecting their female employees and users from misogynist trolls and hackers, as Hess’ article explains. If the FBI’s involvement deters future leaks like this from happening, then all the better.


Contact Contributor Phoenix Tso here; or follow her on Twitter here.



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