We have all heard the stories. Here in B.C. one of the most publicized internet harassment cases was regarding Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old who commited suicide not long after posting this video.
I’ve actually discussed Todd before in my article on The Problem with Pink. In that post I shared the CBC Documentary “Sext Up Kids” and discussed how media influences young girls to follow the example of their pop star idols, sometimes leading them to share semi-nude photos with a crush or classmate. All too often those photo ends up being widely distributed and used to bully those girls, who sometimes end up killing themselves, like Todd did. What I didn’t realize was that some of the blackmail photos that are circulating the internet weren’t even shared in the first place: some of those photos are hacked.
For those of you who haven’t heard about it, Wikipedia defines revenge porn as:
“sexually explicit media that is distributed online, without the consent of the pictured individual, for the purpose of humiliation…. uploaded by former lovers or hackers. The images or videos are often accompanied by personal information, including the pictured individual’s full name, links to Facebook and social media profiles or addresses”
Laws’ daughter, an aspiring actress, had snapped a few semi-nude photos of herself that tries to emulate “poses from fashion magazines”and emailed them to herself from her phone. These photos were hacked and the most revealing of them uploaded to Moore’s site. When Laws attempted to get the photos removed she was drawn into a battle with Moore and his followers. She began to research other victims of Moore’s website and quickly realized her daughter wasn’t the only one who had been hacked. She shares stories about some of the women she spoke with, including Kim, a kindergarten teacher who was publicly fired after Moore’s followers contacted the school where she worked. Another woman had breast surgery photos posted, presumably hacked from her doctor’s office. Eventually Laws had compiled enough evidence and media fuss that she provoked the FBI to undertake an investigation. Moore was furious. He and his followers began threatening her online and over the phone.
Charlotte’s Laws’ and her daughter’s experience with hacking and bullying reminds me of a similar story I recently read. In her interview with Huffpost, blogger Caitlin Seida shares her experience of becoming an internet meme after a photo her husband had shared on Facebook, privately with a few friends, became public after the social networking site updated its privacy settings. The photo quickly began circulating with this caption:
While Seida tried to laugh off the incident, she was disturbed by the comments that followed the meme.
“Some of them were just your run-of-the-mill mean stuff, like ‘oh, fatty, fatty, fatty,’ blah blah blah, and then they just got worse and worse and worse, until it culminated into this whole ‘oh you should kill yourself to spare everybody’s eyes.'”
Did you read that? People were telling her to kill herself based on a photograph they had seen. I think part of the problem here is that we’ve taken the teeth out of the beast of harassment by calling it “bullying.” Are we somehow unaware of the number of suicides linked to “bullying”, especially among youth?
Yes, we all wear pink shirts now, but does raising awareness for a problem really do anything when police continue to put these issues on the back burner, as was noted by both Charlotte Laws and Amanda Todd’s mother when they tried to report their daughters’ blackmailers?
For victims of this crime it may seem hopeless, but I’m hopeful that in many ways people are beginning to see bullying for what it really is. Here in Canada, and from what I can tell, in most of the States, it is illegal to harass or stalk online. There is even a precedence set in both these countries to pursue perpetrators of online harassment. Not to mention that compelled individuals like Laws, along with hero-hackers like anonymous, are willing to put in the overtime it takes to bring down sites like isanyoneup.com.
So shame on you internet bullies, but more than that, open your eyes. What you are doing is a criminal offense, even if you are hiding behind your computer, and people aren’t going to keep on ignoring it.