Nude pics: Emma Watson slams social media

LISA VISENTIN
Last updated 10:33 03/09/2014
Sydney Morning Herald

Actresses Emma Watson and Lena Dunham criticise responses against female victims on social media as Apple denies their systems were breached in the hack.

Emma Watson
Reuters
SPEAKING UP: Emma Watson's close friend Jennifer Lawrence was targeted by hackers.

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Emma Watson has hit out the "lack of empathy" in the commentary on social media after the publication of hundreds of explicit images of celebrities, including of her close friend, actress Jennifer Lawrence.

"Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy," Watson said via her Twitter account.

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Hundreds of images of female celebrities, including Jennnifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirstin Dunst, were posted on image-sharing site 4chan on Sunday after hackers reportedly targeted the celebrities' personal iCloud accounts.

Watson was not among those celebrities whose private images were published. 

Watson's criticism follows accusations of "victim blaming" levelled against comedian Ricky Gervais over comments he made on Twitter on Monday.

"Celebrities, make it harder for people to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer," Gervais wrote in a tweet which he then quickly deleted.

Gervais encountered an onslaught of vitriol and ridicule after screenshots of his tweet were shared across social media sites.

Girls creator and co-star Lena Dunham likened comments made by Gervais and others to the type of victim blaming commentary that often accompanies the reporting of sexual assaults.

Actress Mary Elizabeth Winestead, whose private photos with her husband were among those leaked online, condemned the "creepy efforts" of the hackers in stealing the images and lambasted the voyeurism of internet users who sought them out online. Winestead then announced she was "going on an internet break" following a backlash of abuse on Twitter.

In the meantime federal investigators in the US worked to determine who stole and posted the photos. 

Copyright complaints apparently prompted the removal of the image from sharing site Imgur.com and rendered links on the social networking site Reddit inoperable in what experts call an online version of "whack-a-mole" that will never fully scrub the intimate photos of Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and other stars from the Internet.

Apple said on Tuesday that its engineers have determined that hackers breached individual accounts, but didn't obtain general access to a pair of its services, iCloud and Find my iPhone. While the tech giant released the results after it said it conducted 40 hours of investigation, law enforcement inquiries likely will take days or weeks to complete.

The FBI offered no details on its efforts to identify the people responsible for stealing the images and posting them, but said on Monday that the agency was aware of the breach and was "addressing the matter." Previous investigations have involved the use of search warrants and digital forensics to determine how hackers obtained everything from Paris Hilton's contact list to nude photos of actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis.

Lawrence, a three-time Oscar nominee who won for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, contacted authorities after the images began appearing Sunday (local time). By Tuesday, a Reddit thread that had been compiling links to images of nude photos of Lawrence and other celebrities had been disabled "due to a copyright claim." Users reported difficulty finding working links to the images on other sites, although they remained active on sites that specialise in online piracy.

Representatives of Twitter, Reddit and Imgur did not respond to messages Tuesday. Apple said it was cooperating with the FBI and urged users to adopt stronger passwords and enable the two-step authentication feature to prevent.

Naked images purporting to be of other stars also were posted, although the authenticity of many couldn't be confirmed.

Mark Rasch, a former federal prosecutor who specialised in computer crimes, said investigators will focus on not only who's responsible for the theft of the photos, but the tools they used and even the idiosyncrasies of how they program.

"There is a digital trail," Rasch said. "What you hope for (is) the people aren't very good at what they do, that they screw up, that they (upset) other hackers. Or that they leave a trail."

While investigations may span months - and different continents - Rasch said sometimes authorities will catch an early break or get a tip that leads them to suspects. The investigations are difficult, he said, but "It's equally difficult to get away with it scot free."

In the past decade, federal prosecutors have successfully prosecuted a Massachusetts teenager who hacked Hilton's phone account and posted her contact list online, as well as a Florida man who stole nude photos of Johansson, Kunis and singer Christina Aguilera. The teenager was sentenced to several months in jail, while a federal judge in 2012 ordered Christopher Chaney imprisoned for 10 years for the hack that targeted Johansson.

The people responsible for stealing the Lawrence photos may also be tracked by private investigators who can operate faster than government agents, said Rasch, whose company Rasch Technology and Cyberlaw has conducted similar investigations but is not working on the current data breach.

Lawrence and other stars who were hacked are now confronting on a very personal level a problem that has dogged the entertainment industry for years - online piracy.

"Even if you can get it taken down, it's likely to pop up somewhere else," said F. Jay Dougherty, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles who specialises in entertainment and intellectual property issues.

Mickey Osterreicher, a media lawyer and general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said that while a successful copyright complaint could scrub the images from a site forever, Lawrence and other celebrities will have to remain vigilant and continue filing takedown notices.

"You have to go to each place," he said. "It's kind of like playing whack-a-mole."

-Sydney Morning Herald and AP

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