“Mi stai facendo il video? Bravo.” or “You’re making the video? Good.”
It’s difficult to imagine what those words meant to Tiziana Cantone.
The 31-year-old spoke them to a male acquaintance at the beginning of a sex tape the couple filmed together. About a year ago, she sent that video to her ex-boyfriend and three others, who published it online for all to see.
And see, they did.
That phrase followed her like a plague. One of her most intimate, private moments became an Internet joke, a meme of sorts.
It was printed on T-shirts and smartphone cases, worn and carried through the streets of Italy, likely as some sort of joke, the BBC reported.
Cantone couldn’t escape it.
She wanted the video removed — and won the “right to be forgotten” and to have the video deleted from the Web, in court — but, by then, it was too late. The video and what had become her catchphrase — “Mi stai facendo il video? Bravo.” — was everywhere.
On Tuesday, she killed herself at her aunt’s house in Mugnano, a comune, or municipality, of Naples, Italy.
It’s unclear why Cantone originally sent the video to her ex-boyfriend and three others, but after they published it online, it garnered more than a million views, the Guardian reported.
That’s when the jokes started, and what had become her unintended catchphrase began appearing on clothing and apparel.
She became so recognizable that she quit her job and moved to Tuscany. When she died, she was in the process of changing her name — of erasing her former self.
Her mother said that during this time she began drinking copious amounts of alcohol and attempted to take her own life twice, BCC reported.
“She was hurting and at times took refuge in alcohol. But she was always a healthy and normal girl,” her mother, Maria Teresa, told investigators, according to La Reppublica.
Cantone eventually turned to the legal system in an attempt to rid the Internet of the pornographic film. After a drawn-out battle, she eventually won the “right to be forgotten,” a phrase often used when referring to the right under European law to scrub the Web of information and images about an individual.
But, as is so often the case, it was too late. The video could be removed from Facebook, but it had been replicated thousands upon thousands of times, spreading through the Internet.
As the Naples daily Il Mattino wrote, “In the Wild West of the Internet, the orders of a judge have the same effect as shooting blanks.”
Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi told the BBC that the Italian government is helpless to stop the videos.
“As a government, there’s not a lot that we can do,” Renzi said. “It’s mainly a cultural battle — also a social and political battle. Our commitment is try to do everything we can. … Violence against women is not an ineradicable phenomenon.”
Cantone was also ordered to pay 20,000 euros (about $22,475) in legal fees, which, as the Guardian noted, many local media outlets called the “final insult.”
“She was suffering from everything she saw and heard and in particular from the outcome of the legal proceedings because she believed justice had not been done,” her mother told the BBC.
After news of her death broke, friends, naturally, grieved.
“I cannot believe it really happened,” Teresa Petrosino, a friend of Cantone, told the Corriere Della Sera.
But so did much of Italy. She had become so well known in the country that her funeral procession was broadcast by RAI TV, Italy’s national public broadcasting company.
A local newspaper published a scathing cultural critique aimed at the fact that the videos are still accessible — in the piece, the writer admits to recently downloading the video to prove that one could.
“Why are these images still there? Why can people still mock and laugh at this young woman who ended her days because of this humiliation that she suffered?” wrote Il Mattino.
Author Roberto Saviano blamed her death on Italy’s attitude toward sex. He tweeted, “I grieve for Tiziana, who killed herself because she was a woman in a country where uninhibited and playful sex is still the worst of sins.”
Not everyone was so kind, though.
As the BBC noted, Walter Caputo, a Turin city councilor for the Democratic Party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, wrote on Facebook that Cantone had been “aiming for a certain notoriety” and was “certainly not a saint.”
Petrosino, for one, finds this sort of response repugnant.
“I wonder how anyone can be so fierce, how to rage against a girl who has not done anything wrong,” Petrosino told the Corriere Della Sera. “I think that they should be ashamed, all those who have filled the web of insults and meanwhile secretly watched the images.”
The four men to whom Cantone originally sent the video are being investigated for defamation and “incitement to suicide,” but the Local noted that it is often difficult to determine the necessary motive for suicide in such a case.
More from Morning Mix