UPDATE 2: See here for my updated take on the hoax.
UPDATE: It appears the Emma You Are Next site is indeed a hoax, put online not by a 4chan hacker but by a sleazy internet “marketing” company known for similar hoaxes in the past. That said, it was a hoax designed to take advantage of two disturbing trends — not only the widespread public demand for leaked celebrity nudes but also the antifeminist backlash culture of the internet. Emma Watson was already being denounced and derided by internet misogynists even before the Emma You Are Next Site went online. I have made some changes in my original post below; strikeouts indicate the original text. I have also rewritten the conclusion, and taken down the video version of this post.
You already know the basic facts, I imagine: This past weekend, actress Emma Watson gave an eloquent speech at the United Nations about the necessity of feminism, and how the fight for gender equality can benefit both women and men.
Then some asshole or assholes apparently associated with
4chan a sleazy internet “marketing” firm decided to punish her for her opinions exploit the widespread desire for stolen nudes of female celebrities and the antifeminist backlash that was already developing in the wake of Watson’s speech by threatening to release stolen nude pictures of her, setting up a page entitled Emma You Are Next featuring a photo of Watson alongside an ominous countdown clock, presumably highlighting just when she can look forward to her privacy being egregiously violated.
There’s been a lot of debate over whether or not this threat is a real one or a “hoax.” [It appears that it is a hoax.] Business Insider declares that
it’s likely that the countdown site is nothing more than a prank designed to increase the notoriety of anonymous message board 4chan. … The site’s anonymous users often launch pranks and hoaxes to laugh at other internet users and also to further worsen the site’s reputation.
Well, no, that’s not it at all.
First off, it doesn’t really matter
if that the site is appears to be a hoax or not. The threat is was a credible one: as we’ve seen recently with the leak of nudes pics of Jennifer Lawrence and others, hackers are indeed capable of stealing the private pictures that celebrities thought were under electronic lock and key – and sites like Reddit have made themselves conduits for the dissemination of the illegally obtained pics, which have included child pornography.
Even if Watson has no nude pictures to steal, some 4channers have insinuated that there are surreptitiously photographed “upskirt” pictures of her that could be equally embarrassing to her.
More to the point, though, the Emma You Are Next site can’t be so easily dismissed only as a “lulzy” prank or publicity stunt. it’s a clear attempt to
punish a woman for practicing feminism in public to exploit the reflexive antifeminism of a large misogynistic subculture on the internet– and a warning reminder to other women that if their opinions offend the creepy assholes of the world they could find their most private pictures plastered all over the internet. In other words, it’s blackmail – aimed at all women with opinions.
Some 4channers have been utterly transparent in their
aims sympathies, writing comments such as these, collected from a now-deleted thread by Robyn Pennacchia at DeathAndTaxes:
“she makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH”
“It is real and going to happen this weekend. That feminist bitch Emma is going to show the world she is as much of a whore as any woman.”
Actresses and other women in the public eye are already acutely aware that there are little armies of creeps out there with a vested interest in violating their privacy. As Jessica Goldstein notes on ThinkProgress, singer Taylor Swift recently told Rolling Stone that she lives in constant fear of prying eyes:
“There’s someone whose entire job it is to figure out things that I don’t want the world to see,” she says. “They look at your career, they look at what you prioritize, and they try to figure out what would be the most revealing or hurtful. Like, I don’t take my clothes off in pictures or anything – I’m very private about that. So it scares me how valuable it would be to get a video of me changing. It’s sad to have to look for cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. I don’t walk around naked with my windows open, because there’s a value on that.”
The Emma You Are Next page reveals that privacy-invaders (and would-be privacy invaders) aren’t just motivated by money; some are motivated by a hatred of feminism and outspoken women in general, by the desire to take these women down a peg or two. The obsessive interest in stolen celebrity nude pictures reflects not only or even primarily prurient interest, but also and perhaps more importantly a clear desire to punish and humiliate the women in question. For men who hate women, as I put it in a post on the leaked Jennifer Lawrence nudes, the violation of privacy is part of the thrill And, as #GamerGate and numerous other cases of online harassment of women have made abundantly clear, it’s not just famous women who have to worry about the people who’ve made it their “entire job … to figure out things that I don’t want the world to see.”
Before #GamerGate, Zoe Quinn was an indie game developer little known outside the game world; now her name, the private details of her life, and assorted nude pictures of her, are all over the internet.
Men’s Rights activists and other harassers of women online have been happy to release — or at least threaten to release — the private information of women they’ve declared their enemies; there’s no doubt that if they were able to get hold of nudes someone would post those online as well.
The Emma You Are Next site isn’t just a prank. It’s a symptom of a civil rights issue faced by all women who risk becoming the target of angry misogynistss each and every time they speak up about feminism online or in any other public forum. You can’t have a true free market of ideas if those of one gender can’t speak freely without worrying about their private lives — up to and including nude pictures — being exposed online.
One of the best ways to fight against this attack on free speech is to ensure that Watson’s message reaches as many people as possible. Below, a video of her speech; you can find the transcript here.