Facebook is filled with secret groups serving different functions for their members. Almost every share house has one.
Personally, I’m apart of a dedicated selfies group, innumerable buy, swap, sell groups, a book club, an avocado price-watching network and several women-only spaces in which, at times, I’ve posted semi-nude photos of myself.
I am only aware of these particular types of spaces in a peripheral way but to my knowledge they are regarded as “safe spaces” where women can, in theory, share sexual images of themselves with other women for affirmation, for fun or for any reason they like, really.
Most importantly they can do so away from the male gaze. Some have thousands of members.
This week, two such Melbourne-based group were successfully infiltrated by a man, posing a a woman, in order to steal and then share the intimate pictures held within.
The 19-year-old man, Lindor Jonuzi, gloated of his triumph in a different Facebook group for “Lads”, promising to share any “quality content” and “general sh*t to roast sl*ts about”. Clearly, a swell guy.
When a screenshot of his post wound up in another group dedicated to discussing sex and sexuality, where some members had previously posted their own photos, the moderator of that group decided enough was enough.
Brandon Cook wrote an open letter to Jonuzi’s employer, asking if they were aware of his attempts to disseminate women’s private pictures without their consent — as it turns out, they weren’t.
Cook decided to go public with it so people would “understand that their online behaviour doesn’t necessarily occur in a vacuum”.
“I decided to make a public post, not only because Lucky Ent., his now ex-employer, weren’t responding to private messages at the time, but because I saw an opportunity to make a public statement, and opine on a string of behaviours that I see as morally and ethically repugnant,” he told Mamamia.
“I thought it was at their discretion, but it would be in their best interest to let him go, because honestly, it had gone too far.”
The entertainment events agency eventually responded privately to Cook, before publicly severing ties with the freelance designer.
They also released a statement saying thy did not support his behaviour in “any way, shape or form” and stressing the “integral importance of women in our business”.
While there is a sound argument that vigilante-style justice served out on social media can risk going too far or worse, may vilify innocent parties, as long as Australia is without a uniform set of regulations to tackle online abuse, users have little other option than to take things into their own hands.
This is not an isolated incident, nor the first time a man has tried to force entry into an online women’s space to abuse its members.
It is certainly not the first time a man has stolen a naked photo of a women and shared it without her consent, a practice commonly known as “revenge porn“.
At present, Victoria is the only state with laws designed specifically to tackle revenge porn, others rely on older, non-specific legislation to charge perpetrators of online abuse.
Cook believes that it desperately needs to catch up.
“People don’t take these groups as seriously as they take real-world action, simply because it occurs in the online realm,” he said.
“It’s similar to using slurs and trolling others online: you’re unaware of the impact, and you feel less connected to your own actions, because it’s not happening in the real world right in front of you.
“I guarantee none of these guys would ever think of themselves as men who would hide in bushes and photograph women while they were swimming, or snap pics of them through their bedroom window. Yet those are the kinds of actions these guys are accepting, by virtue of doing this. It’s just not on.”
He added that the response to his actions had been “overwhelmingly positive”, particularly from women.
Watch John Oliver’s perfect smack down of online misogyny:
One woman, who chimed in on the original post but has chosen to stay anonymous here, added that the problem is not just one of legislation, but regulation within the platforms themselves.
“While there are lots of issues with ‘vigilante justice’-style public shaming, without the support or protection from Facebook and other social media platforms, and the very limited protection from the police, most people are left with no other option,” she told Mamamia.
She also pointed out that while this particular incident may be covered under the law, had the attack been made via a fake account there would be no way to hold the perpetrator accountable.
“I’ve known women who have been threatened with their stolen nude photos from fake accounts and the police have been powerless to do anything,” she said.
“It’s well time we saw more co-operation between police and social media platforms. I also understand that while the law is slowly catching up, police training and resources in fighting cyber crime are not.”
She quipped, “you have a better chance of prosecuting someone for abusing you via fax than you do on Facebook. Go figure.”