Jeff Bezos Becomes An Unlikely Advocate In Fight Against Revenge Porn 

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
On Thursday, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos publicly accused American Media Inc. (the parent company of the National Enquirer) of attempting to blackmail and extort him.
In December, the Enquirer published an article, which included private text messages, exposing Bezos' affair with Lauren Sanchez. Shortly after its publication, he and his wife Mackenzie announced their divorce. And then, Bezos, the world's richest man and owner of the Washington Post, began to investigate how AMI had acquired his text messages.
In a 2,000 word blog post published on Medium, the billionaire alleged that his investigation – and the charges of ethically compromised and possibly politically motivated tactics regularly undertaken by the Enquirer that it exposed – angered AMI CEO David Pecker. Bezos contends that Pecker and AMI pressured him to call off his investigation by verbally, and then in writing, threatening to expose compromising photos of the billionaire (which included a naked selfie). He refused to cooperate.
As Bezos explained in his Medium post, "Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"
It's rare that a billionaire, particularly one whose own business maneuvers have come under public scrutiny, comes to represent the "little guy" but in this case, Bezos' refusal to be intimidated counts as a win for many who have found themselves victims of "revenge porn."
According to a study published by Data & Society Research Institute, about 1 in 25 Americans have been threatened with or been victims of nonconsensual image searching (or revenge porn). Victims often have little recourse to have the images removed once they have been posted online. In 2017, Time Magazine spoke with Reg Harnish, the CEO of cyber-risk assessment firm Grey Castle Security who explained, “There are literally hundreds of things working against an individual working to remove a specific piece of content from the internet. It’s almost impossible.”
And victims who try to get help from law enforcement often face judgement about having taken nude photos in the first place. This is despite the fact that a 2016 study found that of nearly 6,000 adults surveyed 16% had sent a sexual photo. In an era of near-constant internet connectivity and camera access, the practice has become a part of contemporary dating for many people. In a separate by Purdue University, it was reported that 80% of 21 year olds had sent a sext and that 46% had sent a nude selfie.
Despite the ubiquity of the practice, when these images land in the wrong hands, the results can still wreak havoc on the lives of senders, particularly women, who are the most likely to be shamed in the media. And so until the legislation can keep up with the technology, the voices of people like Bezos remain an important and necessary weapon in the arsenal of advocates and of the many people who have had their lives damaged by revenge porn.
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