FINALLY

02.27.15 10:15 AM ET

Is This the End of Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn king Hunter Moore is headed for jail, and Reddit is cracking down on unconsented photos. Is it the end of an era, or too little too late?

If you don’t know who Hunter Moore is, consider yourself blessed.

Moore operated the most notorious revenge porn site, where, says Nicky Woolf, “jilted lovers could post sexually explicit pictures without the subjects’ consent. Often, such pictures would appear alongside full names, contact details, and links to profiles on social networks.”

This was all protected under the same laws protecting Facebook and other sites from illegal user submissions. That is, while the submitter could be prosecuted, the site itself could not.

As horrific as it is to know that lives could be destroyed by a spurned manchild using a site hosted by another manchild, there was little anyone could do. Until people—like a victim’s mother and an anti-bully campaigner—began taking action.

And thus we arrived at an FBI investigation that Moore was so desperate to cover up, he threatened the Village Voice, who wrote about hearing the first stirrings. (Of course, this same man told a DJ in 2013 “I'll rape your fucking cohost in front of you” when asked about his finances.) The FBI was following leads related to users’ claims their accounts had been hacked, which Moore consistently brushed away as what “sluts” say when they get caught.

Unfortunately for Moore, reality caught up. NBC News reports:

“[Hunter Moore] pleaded guilty to identity theft and computer hacking charges Wednesday, and faces at least two years in prison… he formally entered a guilty plea to one count each of unauthorized access to a protected computer and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Moore paid another man to break into email accounts and provide him with nude photos, which he then posted on his website, prosecutors said. He faces a mandatory minimum of two years and up to seven years in prison, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California said in a statement. He will be sentenced on June 24.”

This is worth rejoicing over—however, he’s not being prosecuted for the site’s alleged stated use, but for hacking and theft. Plenty of sites still exist that allow anonymous submissions to shame innocent people, especially women. Even the richest people in the world are not safe, as we found out with the recent Sony hacks.

Another glimmering hope related to combatting Internet predation comes from Reddit. The New York Time’s Mike Isaac writes, Reddit announced a change to its privacy policy on Tuesday that prohibits posting nude photos or videos of people engaged in sex acts without their prior consent to have it posted.”

Considering the behemoth that Reddit has become, this is a massive turning of tides, where another nerdy corner of the Internet won’t capitulate to the leering of creeps. After all, it doesn’t take much to make you into a stalker or become the victim of one.

More and more online spaces are rejecting what appeals to a core demographic of young, straight, white men, which originally was the central focus for much of the Internet. Even men’s magazines, which you’d think by default should be appealing to men, are casting off the shadow of creeps. Some are going so far as to profile MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) but not in any glorious light, due to their awful activities.

Other real-world impacts coming from the online rejection of creepy men can be seen with pickup artist Julien Blanc: After videos leaked showing his campaign of spreading abuse against women, he was denied visas. His business took a serious hit, as the world discovered what “pickup artist” really meant.

Or the British “Dapper Laughs,” who was criticized online by a woman writer and, subsequently, had his legion of fans after her; then, states the Guardian, “a video emerged of him telling an audience member that she was ‘gagging for a rape’ during a live show.” His show was dropped by a major network.

More and more, men are being given less and less space to promote a culture of hostility toward others, especially women. Of course, this decline does give rise to heated bubbles, whether it’s Gamergate or the abuse received daily by black women on Twitter.

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Ryan Broderick, in a recent essay, tracked the history of this online decline of appealing to the “angry nerdy male,” but also possible consequences: Elliot Rodger claimed to be punishing women for rejecting him (an incident nearly mimicked by Ben Moynihan across the pond); the continual abuse against Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and other women involved in games; the rise of the “manosphere” and angry men targeting feminism as the source of all their ills; and so on.

The law acting on what occurs online isn’t new, but it is needed. The problem is we need more people doing something—as individuals, as everyday users. Yes, it is good to see people jailed for horrible deeds. It is good to see a space like Reddit take a harder stance against nude photos that can destroy lives. It is good that more and more people are becoming aware of toxic masculinity and related attitudes.

The problem is not only the actual people who say and do sexist things. Blatant sexism is often easily pointed out and almost everyone will take a hard stance against it.

The big problem is the minor instances of dismissal, the everyday shrugging at abuse others face that we do not. And it’s not just limited to men who consider catcalling compliments—it filters into how law enforcement itself handles cases.

Anna Merlan wrote a longform piece highlighting the ineffectiveness of law enforcement in dealing with online abuse. But nothing better captures the futility and hopelessness of getting the people who are meant to protect you to even understand than Zoe Quinn’s essay:

“Try a legal system that doesn’t really understand what the Internet is yet… you have to stand up in front of a bunch of people and recount your abuse. [They will likely use] the fact that it’s the Internet to make your case seem flippant and your concerns for your safety seem histrionic. Then there’s the likelihood that you’ll find yourself having to explain the Internet to a judge who may or may not even want to know. Sometimes they understand, sometimes they tell you the Internet is not a big deal and maybe if you don’t want to get harassed you shouldn’t be online.

Sometimes, when they tell you that, you tell them that your entire career is online and you’d have to give it up to effectively do that, and they tell you you’re a smart young kid and should maybe just consider a new career.”

This flippancy over others’ lives has actual costs, not only in terms of judges’ ruling but with creating abusers. So often, abusers are asked why they act the way they do, only to highlight they didn’t think anyone would be harmed, that there are no consequences to sending a rape or death threat. Again, “It’s just the Internet.” This is so concerning that law professor Danielle Keats Citron calls cyberspace “the next battleground for civil rights.”

Hunter Moore may be going to jail, but it’s not for being an awful person to harmless strangers online. Reddit’s clamping down on nude photos won’t stop people from finding ways to hurt others. Men still catcall women and people, like Sarkeesian and Wu, still face harassment every day—so much so, it costs them income and money. Consider that people’s safety matters so little, men try excuse instilling fear by claiming it’s a joke, even when their “satire” death threats are indistinguishable from real ones.

The law won’t save us. We need to do better. We need to be better. There’s a sick twisted heart to all this and we need to locate our place in it. Are we listening or dismissing? Are we adding or subtracting from hate? I don’t know what the solution is, but we can start by listening to people who are actually affected by hate, rather than talking over, dismissing, or denying them. We shouldn’t be another obstacle to fighting for equality and justice, but an aid.