OPINION

Yes, a celebrity photo hack is a crime

Celebrity photos posted

Nude photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Rihanna were pilfered, possibly from iCloud storage accounts. ( AFP/Getty Images / September 1, 2014)

Over the weekend, someone posted nude photos of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence -- along with photos of Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst and a handful of others -- online, spreading them through the dark corner of the Internet that is 4chan. Soon after, Reddit began spreading the images, and shortly after that, legitimate news outlets were alerting the masses that, yes, nude photos of one of Hollywood's hottest actresses were now readily available for anyone with basic Google skills.

Like a plague, the photos circulated the Internet. In a matter of minutes, these private photos, quite obviously not meant for a wider audience, were brought to the attention of millions of individuals. In the wake of this, both Lawrence and Upton have expressed interest in pursuing a criminal investigation to find the person or persons responsible for hacking their Apple iCloud accounts.

One would think something as simple as pursuing the person who stole and disseminated the online storage spaces of Lawrence and Upton would be relatively without controversy. Sadly, however, we live in the age of entitlement, where nothing is sacred, and privacy is invaded by government agencies, friends, family and gossip bloggers. As expected, this has led to a number of categorically ridiculous responses from the Internet.

1.) "If Jennifer Lawrence didn't want her nude photos to be posted online, she shouldn't have taken nude photos."

This is what's called "victim blaming." Victim blaming is where the victim or victims -- in this case, Lawrence, Upton, et al. -- are told by others that they have somehow "brought this upon themselves." What, exactly, have they brought upon themselves? Well, in this case, it's having their private, intimate photos posted online without their consent. In theory, this makes some sense. Sure, if nude photos of Lawrence didn't exist, it'd be a whole lot harder for someone to steal and publish them. A more logical stance would be to blame the person who actually stole and published the photos without consent.

Imagine being mugged by a stranger, reporting it to the police, and being asked, "What were you doing carrying around cash in your wallet? Why were you wearing that nice watch? I'm sorry, but I don't see how anyone is to blame except you." When you shift blame onto the victim -- whether it's telling a rape survivor that she shouldn't have been wearing a certain outfit or saying that it's someone's own fault that private photos of them were posted to the Internet -- you're absolving the true perpetrator of blame. What happened here was a crime, and it needs to be treated as such.

2.) "She's a public figure. This just comes with the territory."

Again, this is victim blaming. Being an actress comes with exactly one responsibility: being an actress. No, appearing in a movie or a TV show does not make it OK to invade that person's privacy. No, we shouldn't just accept a world that embraces this kind of lurid entitlement.

This starts with not falling for the click-bait, not congratulating the perpetrators and not blaming the victims. As has been said elsewhere, this isn't a "leak," and it's not a "scandal." It's a sex crime. It is a complete and total invasion of someone's privacy. As attractive as you do or don't find Jennifer Lawrence, you have to acknowledge that this type of invasion of privacy isn't the least bit sexy.

3.) "Well, I was just curious. What's the harm in looking? It's not like i'm the one who posted the pictures."

It's easy to think of this as a type of victimless crime. You're not the one who posted the photos, so what's the harm in taking a look or sharing the link with friends? The pictures are already out there, after all.

In reality, it's important that we remember that news -- especially entertainment and celebrity news -- is dictated by popular demand. There's the old saying, "If it bleeds, it leads." Media outlets are, as a whole, businesses. Businesses generally like to drive revenue. Clicks and impressions do just that. The best way to push back against this type of invasion of privacy, to avoid being complicit in the objectification of a fellow human being, is to stop driving traffic to these outlets.

We should not reward the media outlets that reward criminals. Whether it's TMZ, Perez Hilton, or another blog posting the photos, let them know that this is not acceptable. People and companies that publish and share ill-gotten private individuals are complicit in the perpetuation of a culture in which we dehumanize women and feel entitled to the intimate details of a stranger's life.

Parker Marie Molloy is a RedEye special contributor. 

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