Documentary puts revenge porn in spotlight at Tribeca Film Festival

A film centering on the devastating effect of online harassment against women premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival ...

Posted: Apr 27, 2018 3:39 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2018 3:39 PM

A film centering on the devastating effect of online harassment against women premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

Called "Netizens," the documentary examines the day-to-day impact various forms of online abuse, ranging from online mob harassment to "revenge porn," have on people's lives.

"Revenge porn," also known as nonconsensual pornography, is the growing phenomenon of having one's intimate photos and videos spread online to shame someone or ruin their reputation.

One in eight American social media users has been a target of nonconsensual pornography, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Moreover, while men and women are both victims of online harassment, women are much more likely to receive sexualized forms of online abuse, according to the Pew Research Center.

"Netizens," directed and produced by Cynthia Lowen, follows the personal stories of three women -- attorney Carrie Goldberg, game developer Anita Sarkeesian, and businesswoman Tina Reine -- who have been victims of these types of harassment. Goldberg, whose law firm represents victims of nonconsensual pornography and sexual assault, was inspired by her own experience of being victimized online by an ex-boyfriend she dated for just four months.

After launching a YouTube series about misogyny in gaming, Sarkeesian received rape and death threats by strangers online. Bomb threats were called in at her speaking events. Meanwhile, Reine's ex-boyfriend sabotaged her career in the business world by spreading information online about her past as an escort.

Related: Abortion funds band together to sue their cyberattackers

Lowen, who previously wrote and produced the 2012 Emmy-nominated documentary "Bully" about the bullying crisis, said she pursued a film about gendered online violence after hearing about the lack of justice for these women. She said the advice they received included comments like, "Why don't you turn off your computer?"

"My hope is that maybe we can start to shift the perspective about this idea that 'it's just the internet' or 'it's not real,'" she said.

"Netizens" began filming in May 2015 and wrapped in December 2017. During that time, Lowen said a lot changed, including websites banning nonconsensual pornography. The vast majority of states now have some kind of revenge porn law on the books -- though the staying power of those laws is unclear. In Texas last week, an appeals court struck down a 2015 revenge porn law for being overly broad.

Still, Lowen said she is encouraged by the recent awakening around the internet and its impact on culture.

"In wake of the election, there's awareness that this isn't just hate on the internet, there are absolute real implications for online abuse. That perspective, that perception, is really shifting," she told CNNMoney.

Related: Woman awarded $6.45 million in revenge porn case

Tech companies continue to struggle with addressing online harassment on their platforms. Companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have rolled out tools to help users mute trolls -- but flagging comments to the companies, and getting an appropriate response, remains an imperfect and slow process.

During a panel after the film's premiere, Sarkeesian called on tech companies to change their approach to dealing with harassment on their platforms.

"If social media companies made it five or six times harder to harass- if It took six clicks to send a hateful message -- it would drop off significantly," she said. "You can't convince someone who sees you as inhuman [that you are human]. I think that If we change the systems that we operate in, we change the way people behave within those systems."

Lowen said she plans to take "Netizens" to college campuses, law enforcement, domestic violence advocacy organizations and social media organizations, and hopes the film can be an educational tool.

The film will have its fourth screening at Tribeca Film Festival on Friday and its international premiere at Hot Docs, a documentary festival in Toronto, on Sunday.

"We are citizens of the internet and we all have a stake in making it a place we can function," Lowen said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 727764

Reported Deaths: 13397
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion995211738
Lake53461965
Allen40457675
St. Joseph35506550
Hamilton35489408
Elkhart28433441
Tippecanoe22359218
Vanderburgh22284396
Porter18668307
Johnson17905377
Hendricks17180315
Clark12930191
Madison12592339
Vigo12431246
Monroe11858170
LaPorte11821210
Delaware10648185
Howard9865216
Kosciusko9378117
Hancock8251140
Bartholomew8052155
Warrick7771155
Floyd7649177
Grant7027174
Wayne7026199
Boone6679101
Morgan6555139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6005111
Dearborn579277
Cass5788105
Henry5688103
Noble558883
Jackson500872
Shelby490296
Lawrence4505120
Harrison434772
Gibson434692
Clinton427053
DeKalb426484
Montgomery423588
Whitley394739
Huntington389080
Steuben383857
Miami380666
Knox371890
Jasper363847
Putnam358860
Wabash353379
Adams340654
Ripley339170
Jefferson328881
White313254
Daviess295899
Wells291081
Decatur284292
Fayette279262
Greene277385
Posey271033
Scott265453
LaGrange265370
Clay259146
Washington240032
Randolph239781
Spencer232031
Jennings229549
Starke215453
Fountain212046
Sullivan211142
Owen198156
Fulton194740
Jay192530
Carroll188320
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush172925
Vermillion168543
Franklin167735
Tipton162445
Parke145916
Blackford134632
Pike133234
Pulaski116445
Newton107234
Brown101641
Crawford99314
Benton98414
Martin88315
Warren81715
Switzerland7848
Union70810
Ohio56411
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1081518

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1256551400
Cuyahoga1117782115
Hamilton798901205
Montgomery513291014
Summit47080945
Lucas42049788
Butler38301584
Stark32242906
Lorain24958481
Warren24262298
Mahoning21511588
Lake20618369
Clermont19747238
Delaware18503133
Licking16410212
Fairfield16160199
Trumbull16019468
Medina15247264
Greene15043244
Clark13970299
Wood13065189
Portage12825203
Allen11626232
Richland11323199
Miami10661217
Muskingum8799133
Wayne8784211
Columbiana8766229
Pickaway8551121
Marion8514135
Tuscarawas8470244
Erie7871154
Hancock6906127
Ross6842155
Ashtabula6792170
Geauga6677148
Scioto6405101
Belmont5873167
Union570348
Lawrence5546102
Jefferson5521151
Huron5427119
Darke5347123
Sandusky5337120
Seneca5275121
Athens518858
Washington5153109
Auglaize489584
Mercer480385
Shelby468893
Knox4483110
Madison435561
Putnam4278100
Fulton421669
Ashland421489
Defiance419297
Crawford3970107
Brown393857
Logan381576
Preble379398
Clinton371263
Ottawa366679
Highland354662
Williams338575
Champaign331458
Guernsey315653
Jackson312151
Perry294850
Morrow284639
Fayette281550
Hardin270664
Henry268466
Coshocton264557
Holmes2593101
Van Wert243363
Adams237752
Pike237534
Gallia235349
Wyandot230855
Hocking215262
Carroll191247
Paulding172540
Meigs144740
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108323
Harrison107637
Vinton82815
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 41°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 44°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 41°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 43°
A cold start Saturday with widespread frost expected. We'll see plenty of sunshine for most of the day. Then, clouds build in during the late afternoon and evening.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events