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September 02, 2014

Major Hack Reveals Stolen Pictures from Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Possibly Many More Women

Including some women that aren't even celebrities-- but who someone wanted to see naked, and was willing to commit a crime to do so.

This is a major story, I think, which will wind up not just being about criminal invasion of privacy, but about how much we're sharing with this thing we call "the internet" without even knowing it.


On Sunday, a 4Chan user (or, more likely, a group of users--details are still unclear) added another entry to the site’s troubling litany when, after some haggling for Bitcoin payments, he or she uploaded a large cache of celebrities' private images, including nude photographs of the actress Jennifer Lawrence and the model Kate Upton.

The leak made it to the link-sharing site Reddit around dinnertime, where it found an audience in the hundreds of thousands. It also found a name--the Fappening...

By midnight on the East Coast, the Fappening subreddit had become one of the fastest-growing subreddits of all time. At any point on Sunday night, upward of a hundred thousand people were searching through 4Chan, Reddit, and the image-hosting site Imgur for the stolen content.

A list was also published of still-to-come hacked pictures of other starlets -- "hundreds" of other celebrities' private pictures and data, supposedly.

The scale of Sunday's leak, and the suggestion that there may be hundreds more images and videos to come, suggests something new.

Authorities do not know how the phones were hacked, but they are currently investigating two possibilities-- an exploit of Apple's iCloud, or an exploit of their "Find My Phone" app.

The New Yorker suggests that people just aren't aware of how insecure "private" data actually is:

Most discreet people know not to upload nude photos onto the Internet but are unaware that a photograph shared privately, through a text message or e-mail, is hardly private at all.

This is all high-profile enough to have drawn an FBI probe, and Jennifer Lawrence says (through a lawyer) that she'll be pursuing this "outrageous violation of privacy" herself as well.

Excerpted at Hot Air, Jessica Valenti makes the obvious point that looking at stolen pictures is itself a (smaller) violation of the victim, and then gets into the victim-shaming thing:

There is an obsessive tendency in American culture with elevating women--young, beautiful women, especially---to celebrity status just to bask in their eventual fall. There's also a tendency in American culture, meanwhile, to shame women for their sexuality. So I would not be surprised in the days ahead to see arguments as to why this is somehow the fault of the celebrities whose phones were hacked--that these women took the pictures, that they were posing, that generating publicity is part of their job.

I actually would be surprised to hear such an argument made in the actual media.

But I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up in comments areas.

I've thought about this issue a lot, actually. We keep hearing this claim from feminists -- and others, too. That to advance a "lesson to be learned" from someone's setback is itself "victim-shaming" and punishing and stigmatizing the victim further, and that victims should be supported, not denigrated by statements along the lines of "And here's what you did wrong."

Whenever someone says something like "Young girls should not drink much, if at all, at fraternity parties, to reduce the risk of sexual assault," someone will say that's "victim-shaming," and it's the boys who should be told not to sexually assault women, not the girls who should be taught to always keep their wits about them.

The reason people keep arguing about this, and probably will argue about this forever, is that all parts of this argument are true. Girls should be told that they need to act as if they're in hostile territory when surrounded by young men, whose ardor may eclipse their morality. And boys should be told that there is no excuse for the latter.

And simultaneously, anyone's setback does afford people the opportunity to learn a lesson from that setback. There is an old saying that wise men learn from others' mistakes, whereas fools learn only from their own. (Although it's actually unclear if fools even learn from their own mistakes.)

But it is also true that any time someone looks at someone else's misfortune, and just glibly says "Well if you hadn't had done X you wouldn't have suffered Y," there's an air of judgment and smugness in the statement. After all, usually it's entirely obvious advice. A kid who jumps into too-shallow water and becomes paralyzed for life has, after all, probably given pretty significant thought to the notion that if he hadn't had dived head-first, he still would have the power to walk. Reminding him of his obvious life-changing error is a bit dickish.*

On the other hand -- there are plenty of hands here -- one can't just think of the immediate victim, either. Sure, "victim shaming" -- or simply learning a lesson from the victim's misfortune -- is emotionally painful for the victim himself. It adds insult to injury.

But then, there are thousands, maybe millions, of people who are not yet victims, and who can still avoid becoming victims -- is it really kind to avoid speaking about matters of prudence and precaution that could spare them a horrific result, just to avoid giving offense to a single person?

I don't know. All of these things, I think, are simultaneously true, and whether you come down on the "offer prudent cautions" side of things or the "never victim-shame, always just offer maximum support" side depends on where you prioritize and rank the different imperatives at play.

I do think, though, that even people who subscribe to the "words of wisdom" side of the ledger can and should avoid any hint of a smug tone in their advice -- the sort of "This would never happen to me, because I'm too disciplined and smart for that" sort of self-aggrandizement.

About 15 years ago (everything in my life is now, at a guess, "about 15 years ago") there was some self-help guy or some social "scientist" who advanced the idea that women and men communicate for different reasons. Men, the theory went, tended to be more practical and more interested in some sort of resolution -- so they favor "here's what you can do to avoid this in the future" statements, and not talking too much about the setback already suffered.

Women, on the other hand, are more interested in receiving (and offering) emotional support for the present setback, and aren't really looking as much for Lessons Learned for the future.

So, the theory goes, women and men tend to talk past each other.

I think there's truth in this, and it's not really just women and men who are different in this respect. I think most people have both urges inside of them; the question is just which is more pronounced, and that can vary according to when you ask them.

Even a man who generally favors the "Let's learn this lesson from this" sort of approach probably doesn't want to hear that when he himself is fresh from the wound of a major setback. In that moment, he probably would prefer the "womanly" approach of emotional comfort, and might get pretty angry if you start giving him a List of All The Things He Did Wrong.

Just something to think about, I think. I think these questions where there really is no answer at all -- or multiple contradictory answers -- are pretty illuminating.

At any rate, without wishing the shame the victims here -- for whom I have great sympathy -- I would say that the Age of the Candid Selfie must end. I make no moral judgment here; honestly, I'm in favor of this kind of personal sexual expression.

But the technology is not up to the task of personal erotica -- it permits you to take the pictures, but does not permit you to keep the erotica personal.

If people want to continue to take naughty pictures, they should probably move to a more old-school technology, like the Polaroid Instamatic.**


* I should point out that saying such a thing to the actual victim's face would be a bit dickish, but most people would never say it to the victim's face. Their emotional intelligence would inform them that such a statement would be poorly-received, and a bit cruel.

Which brings up another question: If people online aren't saying "And here's what Jennifer Lawrence did wrong" to her face, but are simply talking amongst themselves, as people will do (people like talking about other people, after all), is that also dickish?

It is the stance of the "never victim shaming" folks that the same rule should attach in both instances -- whether you're talking to Jennifer Lawrence personally, or talking about her, in relative private, in a comments area she will almost certainly never read.

I guess, on this point, I find that "never victim shame" people to be in the wrong: There are very different rules about what you say to a victim and what you might say about the victim.

In the first case, emotional support is paramount and prioritized over all other things.

In the latter case, not so much. In the latter case, other priorities may need to prevail.

If I ever, for some reason, had the opportunity to talk to Jennifer Lawrence, would I offer her my theory that she should have used a Polaroid?

No. I wouldn't share that with her. I wouldn't bring this incident up at all, and if it somehow came up, I would only say "That's so horrible, I don't know why people do these things."

But does that mean, out of fear of "victim-shaming" Lawrence, I shouldn't say, generally, "Look, don't use your cellphones for 'private' erotica. It's not private at all"?

This conflation of what one should say to the victim personally and what one should say about avoiding victimization generally is a major error in thought that needlessly confuses an already-complicated issue.

** Actually, to avoid just "shaming the women," I should say that no men should any longer ask for cellphone naked selfies.

There was a time when that might have seemed like harmless, sexy fun. But it's not. It puts the woman (or the dude, too) at too much risk of future exposure and humiliation.

It's just not ethical to ask someone to run that kind of risk, especially at a time when they're probably not thinking about consequences. (People rarely think about future consequences during sex or sexy talk.)


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posted by Ace at 12:51 PM

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