By Froma Harrop
The FBI is looking into what millions of people are looking at: hacked photos of naked celebrities. Pictures from the formerly private collections of Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and others are being posted for the world to see.
We now hear that compromising pix of Kim Kardashian are also circulating. Shocking beyond words.
Cynicism alert: These and other stars habitually thrust titillating photos of themselves before our noses. Google their names, and you will find corporate-approved images that the cheesecake censors at the old tabloids would have rejected, albeit reluctantly.
Lena Dunham, creator of the hit show “Girls,” has gained renown for the fairly graphic scenes of her getting “it” from all directions. She also made a video for the Obama campaign likening first-time voting to first-time sex. Now she’s urging all good people not to peek at the unauthorized celebrity pix — to respect their privacy. Please say she’s kidding.
OK. Let’s put down the knitting and look at what’s happening as real crimes, despite their salacious label of “involuntary porn.” These photos have been stolen from phones, computers and online storage sites and posted on the Web, often with ads attached. For the record, the FBI has called such leaks an “unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals.”
Now and then they catch someone. A man who hacked Johansson’s email pictures got 10 years in prison.
Justice served, but with all due respect to Johansson’s “right to privacy,” no mildly savvy citizen of the digital era puts stuff in email they absolutely don’t want to see flashing across Times Square.
If there’s any consolation, it’s that porn is so all over the Web that we’re approaching the point where one could turn herself inside out and no one would notice.
Back on topic, a very pregnant Aguilera did happily pose for a magazine in a see-through white dress, her nipples offered for public consumption. So the chief thrill for those wanting to see more of her may be in violating her professed wish for them not to see.
These incidents are not to be confused with the far uglier activity of “revenge porn.” The nastiest cases involve an ex-lover or spouse distributing sex pix following a bad breakup. There’s also the middle ground: guys distributing nude pictures of their ladies to draw attention to their beauty (or their manly conquest).
It’s been hard to make a legal case against someone sharing the very pictures that a lover sent him. Some argue, however, for more protection against bad judgment.
“It’s very easy to blame the victim,” Mitchell Matorin, an expert in Internet law, told Vox. “It’s very easy to write this off as stupid women or men taking pictures, and to slut shame them.”
We only mildly concerned citizens marvel that anyone, above public people, would be careless enough to keep digital images they wouldn’t want flashing in Times Square. And we have been accused of blaming the victim.
OK. Let’s not blame the victim. Let’s blame the phantom hackers stealing the pictures. Let’s blame the websites (Reddit, 4chan, Twitter) letting the creeps post this stuff anonymously. And how about the websites whose operators are themselves hidden — and who, in any case, are not legally responsible for what’s posted on them, thanks to the oddly named Communications Decency Act?
Let’s blame them. Now, does everyone feel better?
We shall end with some simple pointers: Unless you’re in the business, never exchange erotic photos with a significant other or any other other. And don’t store them digitally. In fact, don’t take them.
Froma Harrop is a Providence Journal columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.