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The Providence Of Privacy

In Toronto Magazine, February 2012, How Tweet It Is

In Toronto Magazine, February 2012, How Tweet It Is

Isanyoneup.com is a website with a capitalistically shrewd and deviously ruthless business model.

The site hosts amateur nude digital photos of people from all over North America, cleverly filtered by city, uploaded by the recipients of “sexted” photos: spurned lovers, ex-partners, and mean-spirited hook-ups. These people have chosen for various reasons to share with the world sexy little snapshots of their former flames. The only rule in the rather coarsely written submission terms is that photos must be of those 18 years old or older and not be professionally copyrighted material.

Photos are approved and site-branded by Hunter Moore, the much-hated yet visibly ubiquitous site owner. Casually dismissing a subject’s right to privacy or anonymity, the site provides cross-referenced screen captures of their Facebook profile pages, with their names included. One’s personal privacy is erased in an instant, on a global scale, as millions of users view, copy, and share these images. Comment tools are provided to discuss the various assets on view. As you can imagine, some fair better than others in public opinion.

The site doesn’t care about orientation or gender. Anyone is game for exploitation. The demo skews to the young adult for now, but that could change as the site grows. The site is littered with advertising, presumably generating sizable revenue for Moore. Word of mouth, not to mention a wave of national publicity is creating a lot of heat and attention.

The speed at which societal mores have changed is directly correlated to the velocity with which these innovative leaps in communication technology have occurred.

It was only a matter of time before a website like this existed. It holds up a mirror to the darker side of humanity, one that craves revenge, one that demands retribution, and suckles the teat of instant gratification.

In his book Empire Of Illusion, Chris Hedges writes about the moral and ethical erosion occurring in the United States, due to the sexual extremism going on in the porn industry. Moore’s site is just an extension of the ethical erosion Hedges describes. Technology is the enabler. Demand is inevitably supplied in this consumer society.

Will isanyoneup.com create instant celebrity for subjects who never wished to be famous in the first place? Breach of confidence, malicious intent, and invasion of privacy are issues between the subject of the photos and recipient who leaks them, not the website.

The era of nude photos ruining someone’s life or reputation died with the birth of the internet. (It didn’t ruin Marilyn Monroe’s career either.) In a world where celebrity careers are enhanced by “leaked nudity,” it was only a matter of time before social media would pull out a trashy, everyman equivalent.

Is apathy towards amateur nudity a representation of society’s current moral zeitgeist? Will isanyoneup.com discourage future drunken sailors from sexting pics of their John Thomases to a prospective lay? I doubt it.

One thing is clear: we now live in the world Larry Clark prophesized in his films.

Michael Thorner tweets at @michaelthorner

[Addendum: isanyoneup.com was shut down in the summer of 2012.]

This column originally appeared in IN Toronto Magazine, February 2012 issue.
Editor: Gordon Bowness