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: 658043

Reported Deaths: 12467
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion902221628
Lake48163871
Allen35614632
Hamilton31884394
St. Joseph29615510
Elkhart25291412
Vanderburgh21148377
Tippecanoe19815197
Johnson16262353
Porter15867268
Hendricks15744297
Clark11860179
Madison11688315
Vigo11520228
Monroe10267158
Delaware9800178
LaPorte9725194
Howard9024194
Kosciusko8519107
Bartholomew7394147
Warrick7380147
Hancock7379128
Floyd7149165
Wayne6597189
Grant6406157
Morgan6044124
Boone604188
Dubois5876111
Dearborn541266
Henry539892
Marshall5397104
Cass538999
Noble507575
Jackson462663
Shelby458890
Lawrence4161111
Gibson400581
Harrison395960
Clinton393353
DeKalb382878
Montgomery382883
Miami355163
Knox354484
Whitley347235
Huntington339276
Steuben336355
Wabash329575
Putnam326559
Ripley325261
Adams320749
Jasper313643
White295651
Jefferson293270
Daviess284496
Fayette270555
Decatur269688
Greene260278
Posey260031
Wells256074
Scott248947
LaGrange240270
Clay239444
Randolph225076
Spencer216130
Jennings214044
Washington208727
Sullivan202239
Fountain200641
Starke186450
Owen181652
Fulton177437
Jay177328
Carroll175718
Perry172635
Orange170450
Rush164222
Vermillion159040
Franklin158435
Tipton145641
Parke138415
Pike127232
Blackford120327
Pulaski106243
Newton96431
Brown94839
Benton91213
Crawford90113
Martin80014
Switzerland7527
Warren74712
Union66810
Ohio52811
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 959995

Reported Deaths: 17045
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1111071193
Cuyahoga945941709
Hamilton72643947
Montgomery46983875
Summit39720942
Butler35094460
Lucas34829757
Stark29061835
Warren22166270
Lorain21781386
Mahoning19282537
Lake18210300
Clermont18200206
Delaware16289129
Licking14832197
Fairfield14401156
Trumbull14171455
Greene13481211
Medina13220219
Clark12139333
Wood11411193
Portage10870153
Allen10715232
Richland10184205
Miami9954179
Columbiana8052179
Muskingum8046123
Tuscarawas7984235
Pickaway796798
Marion7944135
Wayne7799217
Erie6803183
Ross6083136
Geauga5996129
Hancock5945110
Scioto5886105
Ashtabula5884143
Lawrence520373
Union506552
Darke5013122
Belmont483987
Sandusky473393
Jefferson4726107
Huron4722117
Seneca4624103
Athens457331
Mercer4570101
Auglaize454498
Washington452186
Shelby439167
Knox398584
Putnam3967101
Madison389147
Ashland375495
Fulton375364
Defiance3682102
Brown367842
Crawford355396
Preble351070
Logan350158
Clinton336862
Highland324455
Ottawa319667
Williams299777
Jackson287756
Guernsey284034
Champaign283145
Fayette266343
Perry265943
Morrow257224
Henry243665
Holmes2420104
Hardin241957
Coshocton230847
Van Wert227849
Gallia219846
Adams213732
Pike212825
Wyandot207952
Hocking192248
Carroll178928
Paulding158023
Meigs133836
Noble128142
Monroe115336
Morgan99734
Harrison99632
Vinton76515
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 29°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 25°
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 29°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 18°
Cooler Thursday, More Warmth Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events