Does the Buck Stop Here?
06 October 2014
There doesn't seem to be an end to the celebrity hacking scandal, with more photos being drip fed to the masses and hoax websites being set up to threaten others yet to have their private photos aired for all of cyberspace to judge and snigger at.
One positive that has come out of the recent wave of uncomfortably private photos being brandished is that not everyone wants to look at them. The influential voices of those who have stood for the protection of women in particular have risen above the hashtags and encouraged a movement that promotes the "don't share" message.
A similar stance was first taken following ISIL's attempts to socialise the horrific videos of the beheadings of Western journalists. Their families pleaded with the public not to watch the videos or share the links that would compound the suffering and perpetuate ISIL's objective of spreading images of gratuitous violence intended to bolster their cause. Some disagreed and said that it was important to see the extent of violence to raise awareness of the gravity of the situation; some said the image stills were enough to prove the point and the videos were an unnecessary extension that only served to quest the thirst of the over-curious click-happy who had become desensitised from years of brutal video games.
Following the lead of those who speak out in the face of those who took guilty pleasure in sharing those unspeakably violent images, the culture of online oversharing appears to have started to become resented and even offensive. As these celebrity hacks have become more common, sections of the general public appear to have identified with those targeted and are as equally outraged. They berate those who claim that these women "had it coming" by daring to take these photos and videos in the first place - as if they were intended to be shared by every smartphone user.
While there will always be curious Twitter users and Googlers who can't help but sneak a peak for the sake of keeping up with office banter by the water cooler, there are those who are demanding that the platforms that condoned and even perpetuated the distribution of these deeply personal photos are held accountable. One such example is the highly respected Marty Singer, who has accused Google of "making millions from the victimisation of women" and "blatantly unethical behaviour" in a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought on behalf of 12 women who fell victim to the hack.
Google has yet to formally respond to allegations that it has acted irresponsibly by not removing the images, and that it has "knowingly" accommodated, facilitated and perpetuated the unlawful conduct. If Google has consciously sought to capitalise on the violations of privacy, where does the buck stop when it comes to Twitter and other online platforms that allow the content to remain available?
We would advocate more proactive measures by platforms to remove and deter before complaints and requests have to be made. The software is clearly there - uploaded home videos are sometimes held in quarantine before they are published until it can be proved that the backing tracks aren't breaching record companies' copyright - so why not images and footage of women, irrespective of their state of undress, that are so clearly in breach of theirs?Receive our monthly newsletter