Celebrity news website publisher Perez Hilton has apologised to readers amid a growing online backlash against those circulating stolen naked photos of actresses including Jennifer Lawrence.
An anonymous hacker first posted the leaked nude photographs to message board site 4chan, where they quickly spread to Reddit, Imgur and Twitter.
The hacker claims to have around 60 photographs of the Oscar-winning star, as well as naked images from dozens of other celebrities including Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton and Australian actresses Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) and Yvonne Strahovski (24, Dexter).
Hilton's apology came after two incremental backdowns when his website published uncensored photos of Lawrence and Victoria Justice, who starred in the TV series Victorious.
He first removed the images from his website, replacing them with censored versions.
"No, I haven't been forced to [take the images down] or been contacted by their reps, but I am removing those uncensored photos of JLaw and Victoria Justice," Hilton tweeted.
"I acted in haste just to get the post up and I didn't really think things through. I'm sorry.'
Later, however, the gossip king said he would also remove the censored versions of the images he used to replace the original ones.
"At work we often have to make quick decisions. I made a really bad one today and then made it worse. I feel awful and am truly sorry."
But his apology wasn't enough to mollify an irate internet community.
Twitter user Sam Roberts quoted a since-deleted tweet where Hilton originally promoted the leaked photographs.
"@PerezHilton: #JenniferLawrence phone was hacked her #nude pics leaked Check them out in all their gloriousness" Glad you stopped bullying," Roberts added.
A number of other people condemned the gossip blogger for ignoring the fact the images are a blatant breach of privacy.
"Don't understand ppl like Perez Hilton that supposedly condemns bullying. Yet doesn't care about a woman's privacy," TheMerchDude tweeted.
Another Twitter user Lewis Bayley said Hilton should be banned for posting the uncensored images.
"@PerezHilton it's disgusting that you're using your platform to share this sort of thing. You should be shut down."
Even after Hilton apologised, Twitter users were cynical about his reasons for retracting the naked photographs.
"Call me a cynic, but I wonder if a talk with an attorney didn't bring about Hilton's change of "heart," said Twitter user Chris.
While the images were circulating widely on social media, Hilton's site seems to be the only large-scale publication that has published them.
In New Zealand, radio station The Edge published the photos but has since taken them down.
Celebrities took to Twitter to show their support for the long list of celebrities who have had their privacy violated.
Actor Seth Rogan tweeted that people who posted the stolen images should be punished.
"Posting pics hacked from someone's mobile phone is really no different than selling stolen merchandise," Rogan tweeted.
"I obviously am not comparing women to merchandise. Just legally speaking, it shouldn't be tolerated to repost stolen pics."
Lawrence's spokesperson confirmed the images were real, and said authorities were working to hunt down those responsible for hacking the star.
"This is a flagrant violation of privacy," they said,
"The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence."
While multiple explicit photos of Lawrence were published, many more stars are apparent victims of the hacking as well.
Upton and Die Hard actress Mary Winstead have both confirmed they were hacked as well.
Upton's representative said they were looking into the matter, while Winstead tweeted her anger at people sharing the personal images.
"To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves," she tweeted.
"Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked.
Other celebrities named in the 'master list' of hacking victims have publicly denounced the images as lies.
Pop star Ariana Grande's representative told gossip website Just Jared that "these are fake", and TV star Victoria Justice took to Twitter to quickly stamp on rumours that any of the images were actually her.
"These so called nudes of me are FAKE people. Let me nip this in the bud right now. *pun intended*," Justice tweeted.
- Sydney Morning Herald