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The Fappening, a portmanteau of the words “happening” and “fap”, refers to a nude photograph leak featuring various high profile celebrities that were posted on 4chan in late August 2014. Many of speculated that the images were stolen via the Apple iCloud service, which hosts photographs taken with iPhone mobile devices online.
On August 26th, a user on the imageboard AnonIB replied to a thread about actress Jennifer Lawrence claiming that users on the site’s /stol/ board for hacked nude photos had obtained “explicit vids and pics.” Meanwhile, a user on /stol/ announced he was “trading celebs and ripping iClouds.”
On August 31st, nude photographs of over 100 female celebrities were posted to 4chan’s /b/ (random) board, including pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Rihanna, Hillary Duff, Kaley Cuoco, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Kate Bosworth and Victoria Justice.
That day, the subreddit /r/thefappening was creator by Redditor johnsmcjohn for submissions of leaked celebrity nude photos, which gathered upwards of 50,900 subscribers in the first 10 hours, becoming that day’s fastest growing subreddit according to the Reddit analytics site Reddit Metrics.
Also on August 31st, 4chan users launched the hoax hashtag @LeakForJLaw, to encourage female Twitter users to post topless photographs of themselves in solidarity with Jennifer Lawrence under the banner of social justice.
That evening, Twitter user @Boogie2988 posted a topless photograph of himself accompanied by the hashtag, garnering upwards of 1,700 retweets in 15 hours.
#IfMyPhoneGotHacked is a Twitter hashtag where people made light of the situation surrounding the Fappening by sharing embaressing, often photoshopped, pictures present on their mobile devices that would be released to the public in the theoretical scenario should their phone or iCloud got hacked similarly to the victims of The Fappening. Various websites and news outlets documented the hashtag on the first days of September, such as NBC News, the Dailymail, the Huffington Post and the Daily Dot.
On August 31st, a spokesperson for Jennifer Lawrence issued a statement to the tech news blog Mashable calling the leak a “flagrant violation of privacy.”
“This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”
The same day, Mary E. Winstead posted two tweets shaming the person responsible for the hack and those who were viewing them.
Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Victoria Justice posted a tweet denying that the topless photographs of her were authentic.
Following the release of the photographs, 4chan users identified software engineer Bryan Hamade as the hacker responsible for the leak. On September 1st, The Daily Mail published an interview with Hamade, who denied being involved with the leak.
On September 1st, 2014, Redditor FappeningHero submitted a thread urging other Redditor’s to donate to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) as a token of gratitude to actress Jennifer Lawrence, claiming the actress had donated to prostate cancer research in the past. In the first 24 hours, the post gained over 3,900 votes (93% upvoted) on the /r/thefappening subreddit. The following day, Redditor
THX-1138 submitted a screenshot from the PCF homepage, showing “Reddit The Fappening” as the top fundraiser for the foundation (shown below).
On September 2nd, The Prostate Cancer Foundation released an official statement in which they shared that they don’t condone with the manner of fund raising of The Fappening, and that they would return all donations that originated from Reddit.
We would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner. Out of respect for everyone involved and in keeping with our own standards, we are returning all donations that resulted from this post.
Users on /r/thefappening subsequently attempted to raise money for the organization water.org, which provides aid to developing countries that do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation. On September 3rd, Business Insider reported that Water.org shut down the charity page Redditors were using to donate to the nonprofit organization.
Media Reaction and Criticism
On August 31st, The Guardian published an article by writer Van Badham titled “If you click on Jennifer Lawrence’s naked pictures, you’re perpetuating her abuse.” On September 3rd, The Daily Beast published an article by writer Amanda Marcotte, arguing that the fappening demonstrates how misogynistic attitudes are pervasive in culture, with men who feel “they are entitled to own and control female bodies.” The same day, Vice published an article titled “The Fappening Has Revealed a New Type of Pervert.” Also on September 3rd, YouTuber The Amazing Atheist uploaded a video accusing the media of hypocrisy in their coverage of the leak, providing examples of blog coverage for leaked nudes of men which failed to condemn those spreading the photos online (shown below).
On September 4th, Redditor SlipperyThong submitted a post titled “Oh Gawker Media. You So silly,” featuring a comparison of Gawker articles about a leaked sex tape of former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and the leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence (shown below). In the first 24 hours, the post gained over 4,400 votes (96% upvoted) and 1,000 comments on the /r/TumblrInAction subreddit.
On September 6th, the /r/thefappening subreddit was banned. That day, the official Reddit blog published a post titled “Every Man is Responsible for his Own Soul,” which explained the reasoning behind the site’s approach to banning subreddits. Meanwhile, a Reddit thread regarding the blog post on /r/blog contained many comments criticizing the company for its approach to /r/thefappening. On September 7th, Reddit admin alienth submitted a post to the /r/announcements subreddit informing the community about how staff had reacted to the fappening and why they ended up banning the subreddit.
Huffington Post – Celebrity Phone Hacking Prompts #IfMyPhoneGotHacked Trend
Reddit – “Every Man is Responsible for his own soul”: https://www.reddit.com/r/blog/comments/2foivo/every_man_is_responsible_for_his_own_soul/