As the old saying goes, “it pays to be rich and famous.”
When photos of nude celebrities were leaked and went viral in August of 2014 the internet had a meltdown. Approximately 200 photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Avril Lavigne were made available via 4chan by an anonymous hacker or hackers. They were able to procure the photos by hacking into the celebrity’s iCloud service accounts–though Apple maintains it was not because of a hole in the security of the iCloud and believes it was done through phishing and hard guessing. Within hours of the leak the photos had been spread to Reddit, Tumblr, Imgur and thousands of various other websites dedicated to celebrity nudes. The leak was infamously dubbed “The Fappening“.
Almost immediately the FBI became involved in trying to find the hackers responsible for the cyber theft. As I’m writing this, no one has been linked to the photo leaks. Although I’m sure there’s a team of cyber-crime FBI agents working around the clock to crack this case, because that’s the kind of attention you get for being famous. Google removed “tens of thousands of photos” after the exposed celebrities threatened to sue them for $100 million. Whatever laws may exist to charge the responsible party with will be wrought against them, undoubtedly. You just don’t mess with J-Law!
Over the next few weeks, feminists jumped into action, with their battle cry of, “Consent matters!” The prudes hollered back with, “Well, if you don’t want your nude photos to get out then don’t take them in the first place!” People everywhere fapped. Our country was a mess.
Recently however, Snapchat users were hit with a leak of their own. Snapchat is an app that allows users to take photos and video and send them to their friends, but once the photo is opened it disappears “forever”–until now. Over 200,000 photos and videos sent using Snapchat were collected via a third party website called snapsaved.com (their website is currently down). It was Snapsaved that had it’s database infilitrated due to a misconfiguration in their Apache Servers. The photos were also posted via 4chan but haven’t been widely distributed like the Fappening photos. There is speculation the same hacker is responsible. Unfortunately, most Snapchat users are between the ages of 13-17 and teenagers had sent nude photos and videos to other teens that were included in the leak.
Although The Snappening leak is extensively larger than The Fappening, it hasn’t gone as viral simply because it happened to ordinary peasants. Google hasn’t come to the rescue, the FBI most likely only cares about the underage photos.
Females around the world have been the victims of what’s dubbed as “revenge porn”. Although the major leaks were impersonal it does fall under the category of having photos in various stages of undress posted onto the internet or distributed without ones consent. Revenge Porn laws are relatively new, only 15 states have banned posting or distributing pornographic photos without ones consent and only a handful of others are in the process of trying to get a law passed. However, in the majority of states it is incredibly difficult to have photos taken down and to prosecute the person responsible.
A roadblock to anti-harassment laws exists also in part because photos are distributed to third party sites and site owners and forum admins are granted immunity under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, and Section 230 has been a major roadblock when it comes to punishing revenge porn sites users and owners, because it violates their first amendment rights. If a specific law were passed though, this would circumvent Section 230 and while angry exes could still rant and rave about their former partners, they wouldn’t be allowed to post sexually-explicit photos and videos of them.
In an article published by Slate, Holly Jacobs was the victim of revenge porn; photos she had shared with her ex were posted online. An investigator even traced a photo back to her ex-boyfriend’s IP address but they could not obtain a search warrant to search his computer and he claimed he had been hacked. The case ended there. Her photos have not been removed.
Rep. Jackie Speier is working on a bill to introduce to congress that would create a uniform law to make Revenge Porn illegal in all 50 states. If you’re passionate about helping ALL victims of photo leaks and revenge porn, click here to sign the petition. Of course with our do nothing Congress this is a seemingly long shot; the GOP is pretty notorious for not siding with women in issues like these, saving blame for the victim and not the perpetrator of the crimes. Sigh.