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Should Hackers, Viewers of Leaked Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton Pictures on 4Chan Be Charged With Sexual Assault?

A large amount of personal, intimate photos of celebrities were leaked online, including a number of pictures of Jennifer Lawrence in various states of undress and the photo collection of Jason Verlander of the Detriot Tigers which featured supermodel Kate Upton and himself nude. The hacker or hackers – these may be part of a collection of personal celebrity photos traded amongst hackers for some time – exploited a weakness in iCloud security through the app “Find My iPhone” which has since been patched.

An investigation into the leak by the FBI is underway and, if caught, can face strict penalties. A hacker who leaked nude pictures of actress Scarlett Johansson was sentenced to 10 years in prison buy a U.S. District Judge. But what about the people who viewed the pictures and are actively sharing them?

From a morality standpoint, it’s fairly clear that one should not seek out these photos. These may have been consensual photos, but they were still never meant for mass consumption. To look at these photos makes the violation of their release ongoing and is tantamount to metaphorical sexual abuse.

Yet, many in the comments of Reddit or on various blogs, allege that hacking, sharing, and viewing these photos is literal sexual assault. This goes perhaps a step too far. Simply put any assault is a direct aggressive action. Viewing or sharing these pictures is an indirect passive action, so while still morally troubling it should not be treated as a crime, let alone land one on the sex offender registry.

For the hackers themselves, the fact that they committed a crime is without question. Yet, did they commit a sexual assault, since “ripping iClouds” would net a seemingly large number of non-explicit photos not deemed worth of trade or release. So the sexual nature of the desired content cannot be denied.

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.