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Leaked photos of naked celebrities are no better than revenge porn: it’s up to us to draw the line

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"My privacy, my intimacy, my body have been completely violated. The pictures were taken and shared with trust."

These are the words of 22-year-old revenge porn victim Shaunna Lane after she found out that naked photos she took for an art project had been posted online, prompting a torrent of abuse and even rape threats.

On the face of it, Essex-born Shaunna doesn't have much in common with A-lister Jennifer Lawrence and the group of 100 or so celebrities whose nude photos were leaked on the internet this weekend.

But strip away the veneer of money and fame and it turns out that they are, in fact, united in their plight.

These are all women who have had their privacy violated in the most humiliating and threatening way imaginable.

The bottom line is, there's no difference between revenge porn and the hacking and uploading of naked celebrity photos online.

Victims of revenge porn are targeted specifically by embittered exes or other people in their lives and the attack has a very personal edge to it, while these celebrities were chosen merely for being in the public eye.

But the underlying sentiment of the violation in both cases is the same.

These are women, being shamed, exposed, stripped of their dignity - and for what? For a sake of a laugh, for punishment, for perversion or to simply put them in their place.

Take away the sensation and gossip of yet another celebrity scandal and we're left with the kind of entitled, grubby online misogyny that is depressingly endemic in today's online world.

This is an affront to all of us - to anyone who's ever had photos uploaded online without their consent, to anyone who's ever had an unwelcome comment about their body and to anyone who's ever felt mortified by being objectified in circumstances that are beyond their control.

And if we turn a blind eye to this or roll our eyes and shrug it off, we're endorsing a vile culture of exploitation that will only get worse and more invasive as time goes on.

Actress Mary E Winstead reacts to her photo being published online

So what to do? Obviously the first step is to avoid perpetuating the online humiliation of Jennifer and others involved in this latest hacking incident by refusing to click on their photos (still widely available on the internet, despite being removed from the original site they were uploaded to).

But this kind of internet violation isn't just an immoral act to be confronted by choosing not to look. It should be illegal.

And here we hit a wall. As these offences can take place anonymously and from anywhere in the world, they are frustratingly difficult to criminalise.

Earlier this year, the House of Lords rejected a bid to make revenge porn a criminal offence on the grounds that it is already covered by existing obscenity and harassment laws. But in a report, peers did highlight the need to establish the identity of people opening social media accounts, saying: "There is little point in criminalising certain behaviour and at the same time legitimately making that same behaviour impossible to detect."

Groups such Ban Revenge Porn UK are continuing to campaign to make revenge porn a criminal offence.

You can always report an online violation to your local police force (if you have been personally targeted by the material or know who posted it) or anonymously to the police centrally. But even where criminal laws do apply, they may not be of much practical use in situations such as these.

Duncan Lamont, a partner at law firm Charles Russell LLP, noted: "The laws are there but are usually too slow. It is better to instantly use the terms and conditions to get Twitter [or whoever] to take up the fight for you online by shutting down the misusers of the service who disseminate the images, as these huge and profitable companies are no longer unprepared to get involved [for their own benefit as well as to protect the celebrities who generate so much traffic]."

Jennifer Lawrence has described naked photos of her posted online as "a flagrant violation of privacy"

It's clear that if we are to tackle this issue properly, we cannot rely on legal channels alone.

It will involve all of us taking a stand, from law enforcement agencies to social media companies and the average person on the street.

At the very least, we need to force a discussion on the issue of internet shaming attacks of a sexual nature.

If we don't, such offences will continue to occupy a grey area on the internet; a not-nice-but-not-necessarily-criminal viral playground where shaming and humiliation flourish.

We all have the right to do what we like in life - to eat crisps on the tube or take naughty photos and share them with whomever we please - without the results being plastered on the internet, to be judged and ogled over.

Celebrities are there to entertain us. They make millions to make us laugh and cry. And some commentators seem willing to write off this violation as par for the course, just part of what you sign up for along with the million pound pay check and jet setting lifestyle.

But at the heart of this incident are young women, exposed, objectified and with their fundamental right to privacy violated. And it is up to all of us to take a stand; to report, to object and to draw the line.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts on how online revenge porn and non-consensual photo uploads can be tackled or overcome. Leave a comment in the section below or tweet us with the hashtag #drawtheline.

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