A couple of days ago, in the wake of several weeks of websites like 4Chan and Reddit releasing stolen celebrity nudes, Emma Watson gave a speech at the UN Headquarters in New York on why she is a feminist and common misconceptions of feminism as an ideology. The speech got an incredible signal boost on the internet, anchored by the hashtag #HeForShe on social media. But almost as soon as the speech went viral, a website popped up called emmayouarenext.com, promising that it would release nude photographs of Emma Watson as retribution for speaking up over feminism. The site was just an image of Emma Watson with a countdown next to it. Today, that website ended up not releasing nudes, but instead, forwarded to another site called Rantic.com, which wants to shut down 4Chan entirely and "censor the web."
The website reads:
DEAR BARACK OBAMA,
We have been hired by celebrity publicists to bring this disgusting issue to attention. 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.
Rantic.com claims to be run by Rantic Marketing, "a social media marketing enterprise that has participated in some of the most viral campaigns and music videos," founded by someone named Brad Cockingham, I tried to reach Cockingham, but all the links on Rantic.com, including the contact link, are broken. With a little research, I found that "Brad Cockingham" has claimed in the past to be the marketing director for Rockstar North (developer of the Grand Theft Auto franchise), but I spoke to Rockstar North on the phone, and they said that no one by that name has ever worked at Rockstar.
Looking over the registration history of the website, whoever registered it obscured their identity. I spoke to the previous registrant, a man named David Arbelaez, over the phone to ask him whether he was in any way involved. "That's crazy, man," he said laughing. "I let my registration lapse on February 24, 2014." The site was registered again, apparently by a different person, on May 3rd, 2014.
There was a part of me, when looking at the original emmayouarenext website, felt like it was too ridiculously heinous to be real, but I had no idea what it would actually end up being. There's a part of me that thinks that it might be a double-reverse fake - the language on the site is so ham-handed, and the site itself is so poorly designed that it's hard to imagine anyone would take it all that seriously, and I could still see it releasing nudes in the future. No matter what the case, this site is awful. If it is in fact real, its stated position is facile and totally misunderstands the internet, to say nothing of the fact that by using Emma Watson as a lure to get eyeballs, it basically robbed her of her agency.
There are reasonable, thoughtful responses to these stolen nudes. For example, Danielle Citron's Hatecrime In Cyberspace, which lays out thoughtful paths to legal reform that will better protect people online while still protecting free speech. This bait and switch simultaneously objectifies yet another celebrity and does nothing to point us toward a solution in cases like these.