This article is the first of a new series of Viewpoints from Harvard Business School, Sorbonne Business School and ESSEC Business School students and faculty. Viewpoints section is dedicated to opinions and views that pertain to issues of broad interest to the cybersecurity community, typically, but not exclusively, of a nontechnical nature. Controversial issues will not be avoided but be dealt with fairly. Authors are welcome to submit carefully reasoned “Viewpoints” in which positions are substantiated by facts or principled arguments. Moreover, this section periodically hosts editorial debates in a Point/Counterpoint format in which both sides of an issue are represented.
Non-consensual Pornography: How petty desire becomes a tragedy to an individual.
Viewpoint by Heeju ROH (Harvard Business School)
There was a woman.
She did an ordinary love.
It was not a love life that bares all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. But there was an affection: she and her lover couldn’t say each other’s name without smiling. There was a trust. The two people did not feel guilty about their own unspoken things. There were a lot other things and the love brought all of them. They thought, as it is commonly said, that they fell in love. However, it was wrong. By nature, love is not something you can consciously fall into. Love strikes people as if it is an accident. So it was rather obvious that it was also the love who called the end.
As left-overs, they did not know how to deal with the situation because they were both victims. Since the love already left them, their frustration lost its direction to head and destined to wrong targets – each other. Through the time of hurting each other more and more, they somehow survived as two separate individuals. And that was supposed to be it. But one day, she was told that there are pictures and videos of her privacy online. Records of their love, including evidences of the intimacy. Indeed, she could see two bodies. One of those had the same face with hers. However there was a difference between the face in the monitor with the face that she reflects on a mirror every morning. The face in the monitor did not have dignity or self-respect. It did not have a name or identity. It was merely a visual material to facilitate the ejaculation. Yet, it was undoubtedly her face and body.
I admit. Above case cannot possibly be the only background story of nonconsensual pornographies (NCP) in this big world. Maybe there are other victims who has been through a bad breakup, an abusive relationship, or other terrible situation before the leakage. Even if an uploader has built an aggression toward a victim, he or she does not earn an authority to share the private moment with unspecified mass viewers. We all should agree that the distribution of such material cannot be justified under any circumstance, period. However, we are often misled by the name ‘Revenge Porn.’ We are misled in a way that the victims are deserved to be revenged. More importantly, this perception results a general tendency to highlight an interpersonal and emotional conflict between the perpetrator and the victim, while diluting the fact that the NCP is a collective cybercrime. No wonder why bystanders who are unlikely to commit such crime shows certain level of approval upon NCP[i].
So, do I want to claim that NCPs are not really the result of ‘revenge’? Maybe, but that’s not the point. Currently, frequently suggested strategies to stop the NCP is more focused to victims’ protecting themselves. The reasons said are 1) that the victim must’ve agreed on the intercourse itself and 2) that, due to the highly viral environment of online platforms, the identification of the victim and instant reaction is better taken by the first party, the victim, than by the third party, the law enforcement for example. This could be also why even well-respected Medias rather recommend victims to “make sure that your face is not on the picture” or “use more secured application.”[ii] This tendency is an unfiltered evidence of our ignorance. The ignorance about the magnitude of the damage to the victims and the ignorance about the nature of the situation – the crime. The society forces the victims should be the one taking the burden of erasing fees and legal procedures, while dealing with PTSD, trust issues, and hostile social perception of “you deserve it”[iii]. Compare to the severe physical and psychological pain of the victims, the purpose of the NCP is ridiculously shallow – the amusement.
In the online world, we easily let ourselves indulge. Online world is the perfect place to let all of us to swim in the sea of our own gluttony, envy, greed and lust. Of course, it is rather acceptable if the voyeurism is directed to something not ethically challenging, such as mother’s recipe for the banana cake. Sharing information is the accomplishment of the 3rd industrial revolution. However, behind the curtain of anonymity, we also can consume other people’s private life easily and casually. And as the word ‘we’ suggests, there hardly is a sole perpetrator in the online world. They commit to this cyberbullying by creating, consuming, distributing, and making profit from NCPs. When facing the collective wave of violent behavior, individual victims always fail to protect themselves. Examples of victories are absolute minority considering the entire number of victims. The victory has to become our social norm, the general outcome, and expected result.
I believe that laws, policies, and systems are to stand at the front line of this battle. People’s feeling safe from possible harassments is the first job for normal nations to achieve. If people can hurt others and be hurt by the technology facilitated sexual violence without any rational expectation to be salvaged, that status is rather similar to the fight of all against all. To end this fight, we need more victim-focused responses. From the investigation processes, which are often traumatic for victims, to subsidy for erasing the materials and punishing the distributors[iv]. There have been studies and implementation of policies conducted. However, in reality, victims are rather to rely on civil associations than on law enforcement, because the civil associations tend to have more experience in such cases[v]. While the NCPs have become more accessible and affordable, the prosecutorial process has not become victim-friendly. Victims have to endure the ongoing tragedy until the legal process is over, which does not guarantee a fresh clean-up. As a result, the victims are easily left in the blind spot of the system.
Screaming requires a lot more effort than you think. It is not a knee-jerk reflection. Firstly the lungs have to be inflated as big as possible. Then your abdomen has to be flat and tighten in order to expectorate the air. At the moment of exhalation, the vocal cord tremors to deliver the sound wave. It’s a duty of nasal cavity to increase the sound frequency. Finally, as a quasi-verbal communication, this single-syllable sound has to deliver a message: Somebody help me. Unfortunately, the brain cannot often orchestrate the process. It endeavors to send signals to your lungs, abs, and vocal cords, but they simply fails in doing their works.
She felt that she had to scream at the moment she found her pictures. If the screaming was a cardio exercise, her brain must have sweated to be dehydrated. But the brain cannot sweat. So something else did instead: Her eyes released vast amount of salty water. Taking that as a signal, the other body parts finally responded. But it was different from what she imagined. The sound was rather low and growling. It was similar to something that every creatures make in the time of tragedy. It was an ordinary end of an ordinary love. However, because tragedies does not have an eye, they sometimes just barge into an ordinary life. So her ordinary life suddenly became tragic.
On the website, she also found other women. The women who also had faces and bodies without the name and dignity. She wondered what made all these women exposed. What have they done? And she realized that she already knew the answer – an ordinary love. They all did an ordinary love – no more, no less. Just an ordinary love.
* This article does not mean the victimization of all women nor generalization of all men.
[i] Lawson, K., “People Are Terrifyingly OK with Revenge Porn, New Study Finds,” Broadly, March 3, 2017. [ii] Young, S., “How to protect yourself against revenge porn,” Independent, August 24, 2017. [iii] Bates, Samantha Lynn. (2015) “Stripped”: an analysis of revenge porn victims’ lives after victimization.”
[iv] Dickson, Alyse (2016) “‘REVENGE PORN’: A VICTIM FOCUSED RESPONSE,” UNISA Student Law Review, Vol. 2.
[v] 정한라 (2013) “국내외 사이버폭력 사례 및 각국의 대응방안,” 한국인터넷진흥원