Early last week, like every other red-blooded male on the Internet, I was titillated by images of naked celebrities. An anonymous redditor had hacked into the iCloud service and made public photos that had previously only been left to the imaginations of their fans. Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were among the high-profile victims of the hack, with hundreds more under threat of further violations of their privacy.
It’s believed that the hackers took advantage of a security loophole in Apple’s Find My iPhone service to gain access to iCloud, but Apple claims the hackers made use of social hacking methods instead. This absolves Apple of any responsibility in the matter – a perspective that is shared by a number of pundits.
(Of course, here in the Philippines, this would prompt nothing less than a Senate investigation.)
Right around the same time, in the United Kingdom, an independent commission looking into allegations of systematic sexual crimes in the town of Rotherham, released its report. It expands the scope of the initial allegations of abduction, rape and sexual traffic of minors to a conservative estimate of 1,400 victims across a period of 16 years. The failure of government to protect the innocent goes beyond shocking – at the very least, it was criminally negligent. At worst, it was a cover-up that managed to perpetuate sexual slavery among minors for over a decade and a half.
Reading the stories uncovered by the British press, I felt a deep sense of disgust and shame.
What I’ve come to realize is that the Fappening and the Rotherham scandal aren’t two sides of the same coin. They exist on the same shameful continuum.
I’m trying to avoid moralizing here. Everyone has a different perspective on what is acceptable sexually, and that extends to what they consume content-wise. I don’t particularly enjoy hardcore bondage porn or stolen upskirt shots, but I’m willing to respect that someone else does.
I think where I draw the line is consent.
I don’t doubt that the celebrities consented to have their photos taken in compromising situations, but I am absolutely certain they didn’t agree to having them all over the Internet. Just as I’m certain that the Rotherham victims did not consent to what was done to them.
I’m lucky enough to do most of my work on the Internet. It’s become a major part of my life. Nearly 100% of my entertainment – television shows and movies, online gaming, podcasts and ebooks – is enabled by the Internet. If I were to make a list of things I’m most grateful for in my life, the Internet would be one of the first things on that list.
But I think the Internet has a lot of growing up to do.