It seems that trust, credibility and authority online are the order of the day, with this week’s media heralding their biggest scoop of news toward the major iCloud celebrity nude photo leak. Of course this particular piece of news begs the question of who is responsible. Do we blame the hackers, or are the internet-users viewing these pictures to take equal blame? Many blog posts and articles have been published regarding the dos’ and don’ts of online etiquette when it comes to a major violation of someone’s right to privacy. Clementine Ford from Daily Life touched on societies view of women in the spotlight, and many Facebook users have circulated the message, warding curious eyes away from the scandal so to avoid being associated. Perez Hilton battled the moral dilemma of posting the raw images, re-posting them with censoring, then taking them down altogether.
Although the iCloud leak is the loudest story in the media this week, I’d like to address one other internet privacy story that is happening within a smaller pocket of the internet. While the public figures involved are not A-listers, they are making scandalous news waves within the online gaming culture. Websites like The Daily Dot have aptly titled it The Sexist crusade to destroy game developer Zoe Quinn.
It all started when Eron Gonji discovered his girlfriend, Zoe Quinn, had been unfaithful to him and he decided to write a blog post of the ordeal. While only text messages and chat logs are provided as evidence, since the original post went live the internet has lashed out at Zoe Quinn as a response. They have accused Quinn for trading sexual favours for career advancement in the game developer industry. Tumblr provided this comparison:
This raises the issue of privacy and public platforms. Josh Mattingly (pictured above) sexually harassed a female game developer online via his Facebook page, making his information public and accessible, whereas Zoe Quinn kept her private life off the public platforms. At least until Gonji posted it there. On top of this, 4chan.org is riddled with conspiracy theories and anger over the ordeal, and when Phil Fish posted in defense of Quinn’s privacy his own site got hacked and his social security number was leaked. The underlying issue in all of this is that the internet population was very swift and very aggressive in their response towards Quinn for her personal indiscretions. Writers like David Auerbach are using the backlash at Quinn as an opportunity to defend women in the gaming industry, and promote good causes like the Women Making Video Games for Charity project.
Kim Swift, the project lead for Portal has written a great blog post about her own obstacles in game production due to her gender. Since the recent backlash at Zoe Quinn, her family has been harassed, naked photos of her have circulated, and she has received a number of anonymous threats to her life and well-being. Why are we targeting her on such a personal level? What does all the harassment and abuse change? Gamers on 4chan and Escapist have commented:
“Trying to shame Zoe more is derailing us from useful endeavours like brainstorming more ideas for inclusive video games… which are far more productive than bitching about one woman’s sex life.”
“We need to stop focusing on her and focus on the journalists. … We need to not make this about Zoe.”
I can relate the Zoe Quinn scandal to the iCloud photo leak with one major point: the scandal is not in who is involved and what they have done, the scandal lies in the viral nature of the abuse and privacy violation. The reason the iCoud scandal is making headlines is not because “oh my god Jennifer Lawrence is naked under her clothes,” but because it tells the public that their privacy online isn’t private at all. The reason the Zoe Quinn scandal is trending online is not because she was unfaithful, but because of the mass abuse and harassment she is now experiencing due to a violation of privacy. Laurie Penny sums it up:
It seems that by the pure scale of uproar surrounding Zoe Quinn’s alleged promiscuity implies that references, facts and proof are not deemed important when considering viral internet material. While there was no proof given by Gonji of her sexual relations involving career advancement, this has not stopped internet-users from believing the accusations. It seems that by this standard, the onus falls on the online audience to choose what is worthy of their attention. There will always be pockets deep within the labyrinth of the internet that enjoy trolling or posting inflammatory content, however for the most part, the publishers who can verify their sources, provide proof and show research will hopefully continue to reign supreme. David Auerbach summarises it simply: “It’s because of ubiquitous sexist abuse that the “adults” in the room have to stop the bloodshed in pretty blunt ways.” Let’s hope the adult population outweighs the children.