During my time using the Internet, I’ve discovered that there’s a hard lesson to be learned that everyone goes through at some time or another. It’s a bit like riding a bike and falling for the first time, or your first car crash, or your first blue screen of death, or the first time you get sworn at in a Dota 2 match by someone who claims to have intimate knowledge of your mother. The lesson is that once something is on the Internet, it stays on the Internet. The addendum to that rule is if something is on the Internet, at some point it’ll get accessed by someone you don’t want accessing it.

And once it gets out, it won’t disappear and you’ll be stuck with it for the rest of eternity. 21 young female celebrities learned that lesson recently when their iCloud accounts were hacked and naked photos and private video footage were stolen by a hacker who put the contents of these accounts on 4Chan for all the world to see.

The hack

How this happened isn’t clear yet. Apple launched a 40-hour investigation into the matter that led them to believe that the breach of accounts was not through a service hack, but through social engineering and phishing hacks, with some password guessing in between. Apple has since distanced itself from the photo leak, saying that although it takes the security of its users seriously, the user is ultimately responsible for their accounts and account safety.

Apple mentioned in their statement to the press that particular attention was paid to the attacks themselves, which were “targeted… on user names, passwords, and security questions”.

“None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.”

Although there’s not a lot of information out there about the attacks themselves, it’s much more likely that someone figured out that all 21 of these women used an iPhone, all had access to iCloud and all used either weak passwords, easily crackable security questions or perhaps easily hackable recovery mail accounts. Since a lot of people don’t practice proper security measures for any of their Internet-based services they could also be the victims of attacks but in this particular case it was only famous celebrities at risk and female celebs at that.

Affected celebrities include Ariana Grande, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Olivia Munn, Selena Gomez and Kate Upton, along with fourteen others.

It’s not a scandal, it’s a hate crime and a sex crime

the fappening column

The fact that it’s only female celebrities in this leak speaks volumes about the kind of person who set out to do this. This isn’t a scandal because there’s nothing scandalous about any of these pictures or videos – its an invasion of the privacy of these young women and it’s stealing whatever sense of safety they might have had sharing these moments with their loved ones. Forget the fact that they put all this stuff on iCloud for a moment – there are people out there right now looking at nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and they have no problem with this at all.

At all. As in, they literally don’t give two shits about the feelings of the person in the photos who never thought anyone else would see them. They don’t mind that this was theft of personal and private property. That’s scary and sad.

These last few weeks have been filled with headlines of anti-female agendas, with endless harassment of women like game developer Zoe Quinn, who recently was called out on the Internet by her ex-boyfriend who kept a journal of all her sexual exploits with others, and made allegations of Quinn having had sex with journalists in exchange for favourable coverage in online media.

A lot of people in the gaming press and in the games industry have come out in support of keeping Quinn’s private life private, but that still doesn’t change the fact that Zoe’s ex-boyfriend decided that the best way to get back at her was to attempt to completely destroy her career and her personal life through releasing private details about her life.

You know the saying “real men don’t do that”, right? Well, they don’t. It was a cowardly act and I hope Zoe later finds the guy and kicks him in the balls. Hard.

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It’s not the Internet that hates Anita, it’s the people who aren’t comfortable with what she’s saying that do.

There are also some wild stories like the recent one surrounding Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series on YouTube. Sarkeesian had to move herself and her parents out of their houses and stay with a friend after someone threatened to rape and murder her on Twitter. Let’s forget the conspiracy theories and bullshit from Reddit and 4Chan for the moment and take note of the following trend: women are being bullied on the Internet.

Sarkeesian is at the frontlines of the gender equality war, bravely speaking out in a bid to get gamers, the games industry and game developers themselves to see how they are constantly being sexist and misogynistic. She was targeted for pressing too many of the buttons of people who are uncomfortable with the idea that it’s clearly sexist that Shigeru Miyamoto pretty much made Princess Peach a permanent damsel in distress, incapable of getting herself out of the sticky situations that arise between Bowser and Mario’s fights over her.

There’s this massive culture of hate against females and feminism, and with the Internet being the Internet, the hate gets intensified and magnified so much that the actions of the people who do these kinds of heinous acts get bolder and bolder every year. People get doxxed all the time with their personal information being leaked onto the ‘Net, but this is something entirely different. When you really think about it, it’s practically assault.

It doesn’t just happen to the big celebrities

I follow two amazing women on Twitter  – Dorothy Black and Laura Shortridge. Dorothy is a sex columnist and used to write for Cosmopolitan, but is now most active on Women24 and has her own website dedicated to her work. Laura is a Women24 columnist  and now writes for them on a more permanent basis after being brought in as a junior writer.

Both are met with doses of hate in response to the articles they write on Women24 from men and women who refuse to give them the opportunity to just be normal human beings, as if being sexually free and open OR just being female is a crime punishable by death (which it still is, in some countries). Some of their haters hide behind the anonymity the Internet grants them while others actively comment on their articles and tweet at them using their real names.

Our own Tarryn van der Byl has horrible stories of her own to tell as a female gamer and games journalist, and absolutely none of it is ever called for.

Hating someone on the Internet – particularly women – and openly harassing them no longer seems to carry the dread of people discovering your real identity, so this kind of activity just keeps increasing and building up. Twitter can’t stop it, Facebook can’t stop it, not even Google can stop it. Hell, the Internet hate machine sometimes just churns out so much hate that it needs to direct it at anyone and no-one in particular, which is why PewDiePie recently decided to close the comments sections on all of his YouTube videos.

Hating people that are famous and more successful than you isn’t a new thing, but doing it to this kind of degree, with this kind of exposure on the ‘Net, can literally drive a person to depression.

Stop blaming these women for putting their photos on iCloud

Yes, maybe they shouldn’t have uploaded those photos and videos to iCloud. Hell, it’s risky even putting your financial documents in Dropbox and even I do that because using Google Drive is clunky and I don’t want to put it on OneDrive and forget that it’s even there.

Yes, they should have protected their accounts with two-factor authentication, they should have used more complex passwords and changed them frequently and they should have used another email account service to recover their passwords. In fact, if they had never wanted material like that to ever find its way into someone else’s hands, they should have never put it online in the first place. But they did because they trusted the services they were using and the people they were sharing it with. You can’t blame them for that.

I hope that this changes with time and those bigoted, misogynistic morons take leave of their IPv4 address and go do whatever it is they do away from the Internet. We don’t need that kind of hate on the Internet or anywhere else, and we certainly don’t need it directed at particular genders or minority groups. It only serves to entrench this awful trend and the more people that download the leaked photos and continue posting them on image boards and forums away from 4Chan, the more complex the problem becomes.

I’m fully in support of the press sites on the Internet who are calling it like it is – a targeted attack on attractive female celebrities who never asked for this at all. This hating on women and objectifying them and hitting them where it hurts most on the vast platform that is the Internet needs to stop. It’s bullshit and if anyone reading this doesn’t see the problem with the leaks, then you need some help.

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