UPDATE, Sept. 24, 6:11 AM:
The threat to reveal Watson’s private photos has been confirmed as a hoax — one directed at shutting down 4Chan. The Telegraph reports:
At midnight on Wednesday, EmmaYouAreNext.com was redirected to the website of Rantic, a marketing company that claims it has “has participated in some of the most viral campaigns and music videos.”
Rantic’s website includes an open letter addressed to Barack Obama, calling for 4Chan to be shut down; it gives the user the option of sending their own copy to the White House. Part of the letter reads: “The recent 4chan celebrity nude leaks in the past 2 months have been an invasion of privacy and is also clear indication that the internet NEEDS to be censored. Every Facebook like, share & Twitter mention will count as a social signature – and will be one step closer to shutting down www.4chan.org.”
On Sunday, the comedy duo Cotillion Girls issued a rallying cry to female nerds the world over: “Learn. How. To. Hack,” they implored. “How else are we going to get into Ryan Gosling’s phone and get those d— pics? Think about it. If more women were interested in computer science, we would have seen it by now.”
The Cotillion Girls were issuing a tongue-in-cheek call for equal-opportunity celebrity exposure, but in doing so, they exposed what is at the very heart of the so-called “Fappening” — and the reason why Jennifer Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Rihanna, Amber Heard and others were targeted while their male counterparts were not. The Fappening wasn’t just an opportunity for male nerds to actively disregard these women’s privacy for the sake of their own sexual gratification; it was a calculated effort to humiliate celebrity women who dared take X-rated selfies for themselves, or their lovers, or whomever — it doesn’t really matter, because it’s not any of our business.
That was disturbing enough.
Then on Monday, a user at 4chan, the Internet receptacle from which said celebrity nudes are emanating, threatened to release photos of Emma Watson.
Over the weekend, Watson delivered a well-received speech before the United Nations, marking the launch of a new U.N. women’s initiative called “HeForShe.” She spoke passionately about the need for men and boys, not just women and girls, to take up the mantle of feminism if gender equality is to be achieved within her lifetime.
She was rewarded with a countdown clock at EmmaYouAreNext.com, purporting to tick down the days until her own nude photos are released. That assumes photos exist, which they may or may not. Business Insider suggested the whole production was probably a hoax, noting 4chan users like to play cruel pranks such as this one for the opportunity to laugh at those who are duped.
Users also circulated fake reports of Watson’s death on Twitter, attempting to make #RIPEmmaWatson trend. Do not believe them; the actress is alive and well.
— brad scarnon (@scarnonbloke) September 22, 2014
It’s just the latest in a long history of online efforts to intimidate, belittle, threaten and cow women into hiding and shutting up — the message, of course, being, If you dare to do or say something we don’t like, we’ll expose you in return.
Those who disagree with media and gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian have subjected her to droves of rape and death threats. They’ve not only targeted her, but her parents as well in an effort to silence her. Recently, perpetrators ratcheted up their efforts with bomb threats. The San Francisco Police Department’s bomb squad was enlisted in March when someone e-mailed an anonymous threat to the Game Developers Choice Awards, threatening to detonate a bomb unless organizers rescinded an award for Sarkeesian. The venue was swept for bombs, authorities conducted random bag checks — and Sarkeesian went on the accept the award anyway.
There’s a long history of this sort of bullying aimed at women on the Internet, especially feminists, documented by writers such as Amanda Hess.
Think for a moment about the memorable celebrity male nudes that have made their rounds across the Internet. Now, think about how they ended up there: Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley inadvertently shared his on his blog. Anthony Weiner’s could be chalked up to his own feckless and ill-advised Twittering. Brett Favre’s were allegedly unsolicited and unwanted, and served as evidence of sexual harassment.
No one is telling men, Hey, stop saying things I don’t like, or I’ll humiliate you by showing everyone your genitals. In fact, it’s so accepted as a matter of course that this isn’t something that happens to men that we’re able to joke about it. We’ve yet to hear about some malicious underbelly of the Web where women are offering bounties for compromising shots of Benedict Cumberbatch or Idris Elba.
Two women can make a video directing female nerds to go on a “wild goose chase” because the chances of anyone taking them up on it are infinitesimal. Frivolous calls for pictures of Gosling’s junk are rooted in fun and not much else.
But when it comes to exposing women, especially feminists, the threats are all too real.