Online Sex Life

Do the same rules still apply?

With social media sites like snapchat, realistic video games, and virtual reality worlds, many couples and even strangers are exploring ways to express their sexuality over the internet.

Whether the individuals are sharing provocative texts, images, videos, or engaging in virtual sexual acts; there is a new set of dangers and rules that must be considered.

Online sexual acts may seem safer or more innocent, but they can cause lasting issues.

In 2013, California became the first state to pass laws that prevent revenge porn, an issue that occurs when someone posts naked or inappropriate pictures of videos of another person without their permission.

A non-profit, End Revenge Porn, has been a major driving force behind legislative changes in many states.  Their founder, Holly Jacobs, was a victim of revenge porn herself, and has set out to prevent it from happening to others.  After ending a relationship of three years, Jacobs’ Facebook profile picture was changed to a nude photo of her.  According to Miami New Times, hundreds of explicit photos and videos of her were then posted across the internet.

When other students at her university received a video titled “Masturbation 201 by Professor Holli Thometz,” her surname, she filed an injunction against her ex-boyfriend.  It was dismissed, and in another instance she was denied an investigation because she had agreed to take the pictures and videos.

Although she gave no one permission to post the images, the law still gave her no ground to bring justice to the situation. Obviously much worse than just a copyright issue, Jacobs claims revenge porn “ruined” her life, and tighter laws obviously must be put into place to prevent this emotional damage.

Emotional damage from online sexual acts is considered by many to be as serious as the damage possible from physical rape.

Not all sexual encounters on the internet are consensual.  Sexual harassment is sadly common on the internet. In the U.S., subjecting children to sexual images, texts, or suggestions is illegal, but subjecting adults to these acts is not the same.

Although this clearly deserves punishment, many consider unwilling online sexual acts as “virtual rape,” and believe the repercussions should match that of physical rape.

An article on Wired elegantly said my opinion on the matter.

“But I have a hard time calling it “rape,” or believing it’s a matter for the police. No matter how disturbed you are by a brutal sexual attack online, you cannot equate it to shivering in a hospital with an assailant’s sweat or other excretions still damp on your body.

That’s not to say I dismiss the trauma a person suffers after being raped online. Virtual rape is not just a prank, one the target needs to get over or expect as part of a role-playing world.”

Online sexual attacks are completely unacceptable, but despite the realism that the internet can now provide us, the attacks cannot match the devastation of a physical rape. While laws must adapt to protect internet users, lawmakers must be careful when comparing tramatic events.

**Featured image licensed by Ranveig under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.



Yes or No? The Dangers of Social Media

Millennials like myself may have been the last generation to experience a childhood without smartphones and social media, but we have certainly been sucked in to its endless information now.  Like many others, I am active on the big three sites; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

These site’s short text posts, memes, and videos are allowing people to gain information quicker than ever before.  Within a few minutes I can read news articles, laugh at viral videos, check up with my friends, and read a meme about Donald Trump.

But, is this information overload actually sticking with me?  I often find myself turning off my phone and wondering what I was just looking at for the last 15 minutes.

Social Media “expert” Jim Steyer told the Los Angeles Times that “In a world where everyone is addicted to cellphones, there’s less reflection.” Although people are accessing information at rates never seen before, they aren’t actually analyzing or absorbing it.

This leads to generalizations and allows users to easily be influenced to one opinion or another without knowing the facts.

Social media’s quick content encourages simple “yes” or “no” opinions, which has helped to polarized politics even further.  Instead of researching all of the options,  social media gives users a short video, meme, or unsupported statistic and expects users to make an opinion immediately by liking, sharing, or commenting on the post.

Trump has been using this lack of reflection to gain popularity in the 2016 election. His sporadic, opinion-based tweets have received viral attention.  Despite the tweets nearly always lacking factual support, they force people to make an opinion on it.  Either “Make America Great Again” or “#NeverTrump”.  Regardless, the reactions cause the posts to trend, and they gain more exposure, and more quick opinions to be formed.

Like a reality TV show, this election has been all about popularity instead of the issues, and  as Steyer put it, “Trump understands reality TV.” His celebrity persona gained him attention across social media and broadcast media.  Whether the attention was good or bad, it allowed Trump to gather supporters.

Also,  following a politician, cause, or biased news source can influence opinion’s simply by the nature of social media.  This allows all of the information we are processing by social media to be molded into the scope of these accounts.  For example, users following left-leaning accounts will never see a story about Donald Trump in a positive light, but those following Trump and his supporters will only see pro-Trump propaganda.

Consequently, the followers can inherently believe that everyone agrees with their opinions.  This shared support then adds credibility to the cause, when in reality while the rest of the internet, and the country has their own opinions.  This apparent credibility can be especially dangerous, when the campaign is built on opinion instead of fact.

Although potentially dangerous for our country, Trump has been able to build a credibility for himself among supporters without a political background or even endorsements from any of the living President’s.

Regardless of the cause, social media’s ability to rally people together is why a Forbes article considered social media as “the ideal vehicle to deliver messages asking for support.”

Mild Cyberterrorism

Cyberterrorism: “The politically motivated use of computers and information technology to cause severe disruption or widespread fear.”

As the world shifts further an further into the technological revolution,  society has become increasingly vulnerable to attacks via the internet.  Information can be stolen, communication can be disrupted, and fear, injury, or even death can be spread.  Politically motivated, these attacks can force the hand of governments, businesses, or individuals.

But what about political motivated cyber attacks that don’t cause danger or significant monetary losses?  Hactivism obstructs normal computer activity to peacefully inspire social change.  Similar to a physical sit-in, Hactivism may temporarily change the information on a website, or shut it down to spread a message.

Hactivists however, are rarely treated like peaceful protestors, but instead can be prosecuted for their online activism. In 2010, PayPal, VISA, and Mastercard refused to process donations to Wikileaks, so the group Anonymous organized over 6,000 people to overload their servers using a DDoS attack.  Sixteen members of Anonymous were then arrested and charged with conspiracy and “intentional damage to a protected computer.”

A DDoS attack is simply giving a website so many requests that it is overwhelmed and temporarily cannot function, so how can it be treated differently than a physical sit-in protest?  Both effectively prevent the use of their target, whether it be a restaurant or a website, and while both can cause small financial consequences, neither causes permanent damages.  Regardless, both are performed in public spaces, and are peaceful forms of protest that we should encourage here in the land of the free.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was designed to prosecute hackers to the level of crime committed, and while many of the punishments seems unnecessary, sometimes Hactivists push the line of activism and crime.

In 2011, Anonymous and Lulzsec hacked the Stratford Global Intelligence Services databases and published the credit card information, addresses and passwords of their top clients.  They then used the information to donate small amounts of money to different charities.  However, their Robin Hood scheme landed Jeremy Hammond in prison for 10 years.  While this was much lower than the life-sentence he was threatened with, it is still one of the biggest punishments a hacker has received in American history.

Hammond still believed his work was activism though, telling the Associated Press in  2014 that “From the start, I always wanted to target government websites, but also police and corporations that profit off government contracts.”

Whether the clients at Stratford deserved to be robbed or not, Hammond understood he was breaking the law, and even plead guilty for his charges.  While the U.S. is dealing with internal issues like this, they also have to worry about international attacks. In 2011, the Pentagon decided that “computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war.”

While it is important that America can respond to such attacks, what if the attack was not from another country, but just an Israeli teenager in his bedroom? Back in 1999, the BBC reported that a 14 year old boy named Nir Zigdon created a virus which successfully destroyed because “it contained lies about the United States and Israel and propaganda against Jews.”

While this shows a true activist spirit, many questions must be asked about the punishments the U.S. would enforce if a foreign teenager hacks because a future President posts anti-muslim propaganda?  I guess we will have to wait and find out.



** Featured image created and owned by Snnysrma under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.