Wednesday, September 03, 2014


This article originally appeared in the 9.4.14 issue of Metroland.

Let’s talk about naked ladies on the internet!  You already know about the big “leak” of “personal” photographs of various (mostly) young actresses and you probably already have a strong opinion about it.  As usual, this has been misreported by Big Media and the critical issues largely overlooked or obfuscated because... well, because NAKED LADIES ON THE INTERNET.

            Now, it’s my solemn duty as an alternative media journalist to bring you the real story, the whole, unvarnished truth.  Therefore, I’ve taken it upon myself to thoroughly research this story.  To leave no stone unturned, to look down every side street, and to be very, very, very deliberate and contemplative with every shred of evidence that I find.  I do this so you don’t have to.  You’re so very welcome.

            OK.  So over the weekend it was reported that about 100 photographs of a dozen or so young actresses had been put up on the internet.  The photos range from naked selfies to faux-cheesecake to full-on raunchy.  The biggest name, the headline name, was Jennifer Lawrence, but there are also pics of Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst (what’s she doing here?  She’s 32!) and a bunch of other attractive young women who are apparently famous for movies and TV shows or something. 

            It was first reported that these pics were released by “Anonymous” and 4Chan, who had “exploited a vulnerability” in Apple’s iCloud service.  There’s a lot wrong with this statement.  First, 4Chan is not a person, but a chat-room / posting board that caters largely to geeks and hackers.  Second, “Anonymous” is the name given to anyone posting on 4Chan who doesn’t want to use a handle, which is most of the people posting there.  There are a lot of Anonymouses on 4Chan.  Third, a number of the “victims” are shown taking selfies with non-Apple devices, so the idea that Apple was a only culprit here is a little problematic.

            As would be expected, all hell breaks loose.  Jennifer Lawrence’s publicist quickly announced that most of the photos were real, and bemoaned the egregious invasion of Lawrence’s privacy.  Others said that their photos were fakes, or were photos of someone else.  Some guy near Atlanta got named as the culprit and he immediately said that no, he had found the pics on an obscure posting site called AnonIB and reposted one of them on Reddit while trying to sell the rest.  Which makes him, if anything, creepier that the original poster.

            Then there were reports that the original poster had surfaced on AnonIB, saying that he had hundreds more photos and videos, that he had not acted alone, and that he was “changing locations.”  This, combined with reports that Jennifer Lawrence had asked the FBI to investigate translated to Big Media headlines that the hacker was on the run and the FBI was hot on his trail!   It’s like cops and robbers!

            The whack-a-mole game was in full force as the pics appeared and disappeared around the internet.  Twitter announced it would delete any reposts of the pics, which seems fine until you realize that someone at Twitter is apparently looking at every post you make.  The fact is that all of these photos are now all over the internet and will stay there forever.  That’s the way of the virtual world.

            Then Apple announced that what vulnerabilities might exist in iCloud weren’t exploited by the hackers, leaving it likely that the photos were obtained the old-fashioned way, by the hacker(s) figuring someone’s online account name, then figuring out the password, then picking through the library for the good stuff.

            And so the debate starts.  Some people likened it to rape, which it’s not.  Others blamed the “victims”, which is, for the most part, stupid.  Over at 4Chan (which is kind of like an on-line paint-peeling drunken frat party for young disaffected nerds) a similar debate rages: some posters were aghast and pledged to help find the hackers, others begged the hacker to post more photos.  There were several 4Chan posts claiming to be from media outlets asking for interviews (which may or not be real) and some purporting to be from unnamed actresses offering to pay for their pics not to be posted (which are almost certainly not real).

            What’s happening is no different then what’s been happening for as long as there have been means of taking pictures: the stuff gets out.  From passed-around blurry Super-8’s of Marilyn Monroe to Celebrity Skin to stolen video-cassettes of Pamela Sue Anderson and Paris Hilton to this, it’s varying combinations of innocence, sloppiness, bad luck (on the part of the “victims”), along with equal measures of sleaziness, greed, ingenuity and sometimes vengefulness on the part of the perpetrators.  It is as inevitable as it is disgusting and sad.

            To be sure, one way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you is to never have yourself recorded doing something “compromising.” Duh?  And if you do, then you have to be vigilant: most cloud services and storage devices allow encryption, multiple passwords, and other security features that would have made these latest hacks impossible.  And which will keep your naughty bits safe until the next level of hack-dom comes around.

Paul Rapp is a genteel entertainment lawyer who avoids naked mirror selfies, opting instead for naked selfie stick-figure drawings, which he is happy to share upon request.


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