Sexual images that destroy and kill | Technology
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Veronica took her own life at the age of 32. She had a partner, two daughters under the age of five, and worked at the Iveco industrial vehicle factory in Madrid. “She was happy and her relationships with her colleagues were normal, the usual ones”, now remember the colleagues of a plant that today has 2,400 workers. Veronica had a common life, like that of any person. That everyday world collapsed in 2019, when a video recorded during an old relationship and containing sexual images in which she appeared began to spread among part of the staff. On May 25, she committed suicide at her home. It is the most serious known case of those that have occurred in Spain of non-consensual redistribution of intimate content, a practice that technology allows us all to be victims (50% of adults share sexual images or texts) or guilty, because the spread of these without consent is a crime.
Violation of privacy is common. There are no precise statistics because not all cases are reported. But when the person involved is popular, as in the case of the viralized video of a sexual relationship by the actor Santi Millán known this week, the alarms go off again. The artist has limited himself to highlighting that he has been the victim of a crime and has refused to make any further statements.
The case that opened the eyes of society occurred in 2008. Jessica Logan, an 18-year-old American girl, committed suicide due to the harassment she suffered after the dissemination among her high school classmates of some images of a sexual nature that she had sent to her boyfriend and it spread without their permission. “Adolescents do it as a bargaining chip, to raise their reputation among their peers, or as proof of love,” explains Mónica Ojeda, professor of Psychology at the University of Seville. Jessica’s mother promoted the first investigations into these violations of privacy.
Four years later a similar case is recorded in Spain. The former socialist councilor of Los Yébenes (Toledo) Olvido Hormigos sends an intimate video to a person with whom she had a relationship and it is disseminated without her consent. She ants managed to overcome the hurricane that was generated in social networks and, after her time in different television programs, she has returned to her town where she has worked as a decorator and wants to orient herself to teaching. She wants to turn the page and has also given up making statements.
The silences are understandable. Any comment generates an uptick in Internet searches in search of the videos broadcast, not their consequences. Josep Coll, director of RepScan, a company specializing in online reputation, explains that “crises rebound in these cases, but they can be avoided.”
Both the cases of Verónica and Olvido Hormigos ended up unpunished in court. The courts dismissed the cases. The first due to “lack of a known author” and the second, because the legislation that was appealed to then only provided for the disclosure of secrets obtained illegally and the video of the former mayor was filmed and initially sent voluntarily.
However, socially they are still alive or are reopened with each new similar case. Both the experience of Hormigos and that of Verónica have inspired the series Privacyrecently released on Netflix and which reflects the consequences of the crime of violation of privacy and, specifically, of the complicit pack of social networks, especially dramatic in the case of Verónica.
“The universal thing is to be vulnerable, to be afraid that they will lose respect for us. The normal thing is that there is a substantial difference between what we project and what we keep. What is not usual is to have an impregnable self-esteem, or to have developed a exemplary stoicism, even though we are already adults and have children, as was the case”, explains the co-author of Privacy Laura Sarmiento.
The creator highlights the microworld that the Iveco worker inspired in her, which could be a teaching center, and where the violation of privacy is oversized to the point of becoming unbearable: “The context of the factory allowed me to imagine a world on a small scale, a reality parallel where a scandal can acquire tremendous weight. It had to be very difficult for her to relativize the importance of the leak of the video. I imagine the constant looks, mocking, even lewd. It is said that the content of the video was humiliating for her. Whoever spread it, who apparently was a company worker, who had had a relationship with her in the past, wanted to do as much damage as possible.
They took it as a thick joke, little more. That doesn’t excuse them. They dehumanized her and turned her into the character of a joke so they could have fun at her expense. The consequences of doing so were not considered.
Laura Sarmiento, co-author of ‘Intimacy’
“Surely, those who enjoyed watching the video and making comments did not imagine that it would end like this,” adds Sarmiento. “They took it as a thick joke, little more. That doesn’t excuse them. They dehumanized her and turned her into the character of a joke so they could have fun at her expense. The consequences of doing so were not considered. More than one, surely, inferred from the video that it had to be someone insensitive, unworthy, who therefore could not claim respect. Apparently, after the video went viral, her visits to her stall were constant, as if she had become a monkey at the fair. Some even insinuated themselves, taking for granted that an exposed sexuality implies absolute, indiscriminate availability, a blind and sick desire. “They think I’m on sale”, I made the protagonist of Privacy”.
“Watching the series and remembering that made me sick to my stomach,” says a colleague of Veronica who, as an inhabitant of that heavy and dense microworld, prefers not to be identified. “I don’t know why we go crazy, why, instead of deleting the video, we share it, we get cool, we grow up and we enjoy it. They were not all, but they were enough. Factions were created of those who rejected him and those who did not care. The company did not know how to channel what was happening. What she did was put her on the morning shift that Veronica wanted and she herself tried to turn the page. But I don’t know what shitty society we live in for this to happen,” she recalls.
The explanations are various and complementary. One is that technology makes it easy and immediate. The other is a psychological mechanism known as moral disengagement that allows an individual to convince himself that the criteria he applies to himself do not count for others. Another is the use of these images to gain relevance in social relations, by gossip. And the most perverse, the one that adds humiliating comments to the messages, is a desire for social punishment.
“People are significantly more likely to reveal another person’s secret if they consider this to be immoral behavior, because it satisfies an emotional, perhaps unconscious, need to see that person punished,” explains Jessica Salerno, professor of psychology at the Arizona State University School of Social Behavioral Sciences and author of a study published last February.
law and technology
Given the complexity of avoiding the crime of syndication of intimate content, there are only two ways left: legal and technological. The Hormigos case led to a reform of the Penal Code to include as a crime the dissemination, disclosure or transfer of images or audiovisual recordings without consent. Borja Adsuara, lawyer, consultant, university professor and expert in digital law, privacy and data protection, explains that the so-called “only yes is yes” law, which is being amended in the Senate, modifies article 172 by excluding the adverb “seriously” of cases of harassment that alter the daily life of the victim.
The reform includes a new section that punishes with prison or a fine whoever, “without the consent of its owner, uses the image of a person (…) by any means of public dissemination and causes a situation of harassment, harassment or humiliation. ”. “The swarm can even kill and that is going to be included in the law,” he explains.
The swarm can even kill and that is going to be included in the law
Bora Adsuara, professor and expert in digital law
But Adusara admits that “the good intention of the legal reforms is difficult to apply because there is an intentional element that must be proven.” He adds that, in addition, he focuses on images when any secret is intimate. “In Spain”, he explains, “there is a loose interpretation because, in theory, you cannot enter anyone’s intimacy without their consent, but in the badly named programs of the heart secrets of the life of the people who seriously undermine your privacy without your consent. That has done a lot of damage because we have normalized it.”
And he adds: “We are a sick society, on the one hand, and hypocritical on the other, because we criticize what most people are supposed to do. In the XXI century, there are still people who think that sex is dirty. Or as in harassment, which is also a crime against moral integrity: there is not only one culprit, who is the harasser, but those of us who do nothing or even laugh thanks to them.
The other front is technology. The director of RepScan, who recalls that online reputation is a right, not a sentence, states: “Currently, with the technology we have, it is possible to eliminate videos that violate privacy.” “What is not possible”, he warns, “is stopping it on WhatsApp or Instagram, which is one of our claims. They hide behind the secrecy of communications, but freedom of communication is fine as long as it does not infringe on people’s rights”.
Josep Coll explains that his company not only eliminates the content, but also achieves deindexation, which does not appear in search engines, and in reputation, in eliminating false negative reviews and that positive content is reflected in the results. of the queries. He affirms Coll that they have more and more cases of harassment or extortion based on sexual content or other kinds of intimacy. “It’s a problem because we all have a camera in our hands immediately, but we have to work so that the damage is as little as possible,” he concludes.
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