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Rob Kardashian’s revenge porn is social media’s latest headache


He first took to Instagram to show his more than nine million followers naked pictures of her, which based on his captions came as a knee-jerk reaction to Chyna sleeping with another man in their home. Within minutes, Instagram not only took his original posts down, but also suspended his account — and it’s still not active as of this writing. But Kardashian wasn’t done. After his first posts on Instagram, he then moved on to Twitter to continue the mission of shaming his ex and the mother of his child, Dream. Kardashian posted a few more nude images of Chyna there, along with a string of tweets detailing problems in their relationship.

Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - July 10, 2017

Blac Chyna (right) leaving the Los Angeles Superior Court.

As for Chyna, she said on Good Morning America that she was devastated, naturally: “This is a person that I trusted. I felt comfortable, you know, with even sending these pictures and even talking to him about certain things.” Later on Monday, she appeared in a Los Angeles court, where she was granted a restraining order on Kardashian, who was instructed by the judge to not post any photos of her, their daughter or Chyna’s other kid on any of his social media accounts.

Oddly enough, unlike Instagram, Twitter removed the tweets containing naked photos of Chyna, but chose to leave his account active. When asked why the company didn’t shut down Kardashian’s account, a Twitter spokesperson told Engadget that it doesn’t “comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.” According to its hateful conduct policy, “The consequences for violating our rules vary depending on the severity of the violation and the person’s previous record of violations. For example, we may ask someone to remove the offending tweet before they can tweet again. For other cases, we may suspend an account.”

It seems the only reason Kardashian’s Twitter is still active is because he hasn’t violated its terms of service before. Otherwise it’s unclear what the company’s argument could be. The problem with Twitter’s ToS is that it’s still vague and, more importantly, doesn’t excuse the fact it took 30 minutes to address a revenge porn case on its platform — especially on a high-profile account with over 7 million followers. While Twitter has been getting better about dealing with harassment and hateful conduct recently, Kardashian’s incident shows that it still needs to keep improving its efforts.

Last year, for example, Twitter permanently banned one of its most offensive users, former Breitbart Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, but that was only after he spearheaded a trolling campaign against Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones. Meanwhile, Instagram says it values “maintaining a safe and supportive space for our community and we work to remove reported content that violates our guidelines.” Based on Instagram’s terms of use, Kardashian clearly broke the rules when he shared images that were supposed to be intimate, and to its credit the company did the right thing by immediately suspending his account. Above all, he also broke California’s criminal revenge porn law, Penal Code Section 647(j)(4) PC, which states that anyone who violates the following is guilty of a disorderly conduct offense, “a misdemeanor”:

“Any person who intentionally distributes the image of the intimate body part or body parts of another identifiable person, or an image of the person depicted engaged in an act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or an image of masturbation by the person depicted or in which the person depicted participates, under circumstances in which the persons agree or understand that the image shall remain private, the person distributing the image knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress.”

Although Kardashian may be on the hook legally, Twitter and Instagram aren’t liable for the explicit content posted on his account. Erica Johnstone, a privacy lawyer at Ridder, Costa & Johnstone LLP and co-founder of nonprofit anti-revenge porn organization Without My Consent, says that neither Instagram nor Twitter could face any legal action for Kardashian’s actions, citing a US federal law that gives immunity to online services like them for content posted by third parties.

When asked if they work with authorities to report cases like Kardashian and Chyna’s, Twitter simply pointed us back to its previous statement about not commenting on individual accounts due to privacy reasons. Instagram, for its part, works “with law enforcement agencies to investigate these crimes, and we provide tools to make it easy to quickly report this type of content and help us take action,” according to a source inside the company. In this particular case, it’s obvious Instagram took a tougher approach than Twitter, something that likely has to do with the experiences its owner Facebook has been confronted with in recent months.

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Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

Earlier this year, if you recall, Facebook came under fire for taking more than two hours to take down a murder video that was uploaded to its site, with the company claiming that it couldn’t do it sooner because the content hadn’t been flagged. That ordeal seems to have taught Facebook that it needs to be more proactive about cleaning up the mess their users create, especially if it’s one with millions of followers, as was the case with Kardashian’s Instagram account.

That said, these social networks, particularly Twitter, still need to use common sense when dealing with situations like this one — it’s hard to understand why Kardashian can keep tweeting as if nothing ever happened. “I think there is more work to be done to protect people from being exploited online through digital abuse,” Johnstone says, before adding that, despite the loose ends, she’s “encouraged by the evidence that Silicon Valley is prioritizing that work.”



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