Unless you live under a rock you must have heard about fappening incidents by now. Fappening happens to be an amusing portmanteau of “fap” and “Happening.” This requires a bit of a jump of thought for this one because here you might think that we’re talking about some massive masturbation session, but that’s not really the case (although who knows). Fappening refers to a leak of private pictures of celebrities (mostly women) to the public. Since some of those pictures could be quite explicit, the event was slapped with the name fappening. This could happen to anyone, celebrity or not, and the latest known victim happens to be Meghan Markle.
When did the first Fappening occur?
The first such happening occurred back in 2014, when almost 500 private pictures of certain celebrities were posted on the imageboard 4chan on August 31. More than 100 individuals were affected, although some denied the authenticity of the leaked pictures. The celebrities who confirmed that the photos were real included Jennifer Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco, Kirsten Dunst, and others.
The leak happened because of the security breach within Apple’s cloud services suite iCloud. Although there have been several theories as to how this breach occurred, Apple later revealed that the accounts were breached via targeted phishing attacks. Needless to say, such security breach raised a lot of concerns that still need to be addressed. It has been almost 4 years since the first Fappening incident, but we still hear news about similar happenings here and there. What’s more, there have also been similar breaches of private photos in the same year as well, on September 20th and September 26th 2014.
The Meghan Markle Case
As we have mentioned in the first paragraph, Meghan Markle is probably the latest victim of similar privacy violations. Sure enough, anyone would have to grab a hold of her private pictures, as the actress is about to get married Prince Harry on May 19. So even if she has spent many years under the magnifying glass as a public person, the force of that magnifying glass will grow tenfold the moment she marries into the British royal family.
It was reported by The Blast that half-naked photos of the actress were posted online on March 15th. Had the photos been genuine, it must have cause a headache to more than one member of the royal family. However, on the very same day the Kensington Palace issued an official notice that the photographs were fake, and there was no further comment.
Now, the website that supposedly uploaded the photos is called Celeb Jihad, and it has a history of posting fake nudes of other female celebrities. Or instance, the site surely has been accused of uploading fake photographs of Taylor Swift and Megan Fox. Hence, it would not come as a surprise that it went after Meghan Markle, using her as click-bait, seeing how she has been a high-profile personality on the web as of late. Not to mention that the royal wedding is drawing nearer, so any content about the couple will draw a lot of interest.
So now if we have sites uploading nudes and claiming that they are private photos of female celebrities, what can they do about it? Of course, they can sue. The question is, however, would it lead to the desirable outcome? That is to say, would it stop people from leaking photos or from forging photos and lapping up those clicks? Most probably not.
Not to mention that unsolicited sharing of private content has long been a problem on the cyberspace. It does not affect just celebrities. Here we would like to shed some light on another type of content sharing that seldom involves stealing the sensitive graphic material. Nevertheless, it is still a sensitive issue that can even affect lives. And we believe that both issues are interlinked as there seems to be little to no respect to personal content online.
There have been a lot of cases out there when nudes shared by regular people (usually with their significant others), ended up shared publicly online. While some might say that people should be more careful about sharing such content in the first place (or how about not sharing it at all?), there are also those who argue that the problem here is the attitude towards such leaks.
For example, Sophia Ankel is a journalism student from the UK. In her article that won the 2018 Hugo Young Award, she writes that she had an experience of her private photos being shared across her school board. And that getting your photos shared without your permission basically feels like rescinding ownership rights to your own body.
There might be those who argue that there is a difference between leaking celebrity photos and leaking photos of a private person because a celebrity is a public person and they should be “used” to that. Nevertheless, it is clear that sharing private material without permission is a gross breach and invasion of privacy. Depending on the situation, this could also lead to a variety of undesirable consequences, severe psychological trauma being one of them.
Therefore, Sophie Ankel argues that online sexual harassment should have “the same important as offline abuse.” Only when people start taking such incidents seriously can we talk about progress and solution.
Of course, there is a difference between sharing private content that has been obtained illegally and between spreading private content that was given to you by someone willingly. Nevertheless, it is more than obvious that no one would want to have their nudes shared without their permission.
Perhaps the main problem here is that there is a demand for such content. That is why scammers go out of their way to forge pictures of Meghan Markle and other celebrities – they know there will be people who want to see it. And unless that attitude changes, we will still experience one fappening incident after another, with a lot of private photo sharing in the background among the regular folks.
Finally, such security breaches present more challenge to cyber safety specialists. After all, if a service does not offer a reliable storage, they will lose their clients. Hence, along with educating users about how we can protect our content from being shared online, corporations clearly have to invest in powerful security tools that would protect the sensitive content.
- Sophia Ankel. What I learned when naked pictures of me were leaked online. The Guardian.
- iCloud leaks of celebrity photos. Wikipedia.
- Jason Pham. Meghan Markle’s Nude Photos Reportedly Leak Online. Style Caster.
- Martha Ross. Meghan Markle, the latest female celebrity to deal with real or fake nude photos posted online. The Mercury News.