There's a new social media trend to send shudders down your spine: groups dedicated to sharing Snapchats, often pictures of scantily clad women, without the consent of the individual pictured.
Snapchat is an app which allows you to send friends pictures that they can only view for a number of seconds before the picture automatically deletes from their phones. For obvious reasons, the app has earned a reputation as a "sexting" app. However, there is one flaw with the system: friends can still take a screenshot of the sent photo. The sender is alerted that a screenshot has been taken, but can do nothing to prevent the duplication or track the photo in the future.
And, because the internet is the internet, home of Creepshots, groups have arisen to post these "leaked" Snapchats for community criticism, jokes, and downright harassment. And the pictures are overwhelmingly of women in lingerie or naked.
It is important to address that while the initial sending of a Snapchat is consensual, any action taken to duplicate the picture and to share it online is not. Any argument otherwise is blatant slut shaming — and the label "slut" is one followers of such pages have applied seemingly to every woman pictured. Just like having sex with one person does not mean any person has the right to have sex with you, showing one person a naked picture of you — using an app designed specifically to prevent that person from keeping the picture — does not mean you consent to showing the world the picture.
The issue is complicated even further when one considers that the main users of the app are between 13 and 23-years-old. That's a significant number of naked pictures being sent by minors. Any sharing of such photos should be considered child pornography, but when the picture is disconnected from the person pictured, how can age be checked?
Leaked Snapchats are only the most recent in a proliferation of anonymous sharing groups on social media. This trend began with college "confessions" and "hookups" pages allowing users to anonymously submit their scandalous stories for the world to read. The privacy issues of these pages have been debated, with worries about the ability to identify someone from a post as an invasion of privacy — which especially in sexual confessions could lead to harassment.
The first "leaked Snapchat" page I saw was also a college site — UCSB Leaked Snapchats. The page was relatively new, and already had an impressive number of near-naked and nude women who had intended for their photo to be seen by one person only. In a college community, it is likely the pictured individual will be alerted to the presence of such a photo, and will have to deal with the consequences in everyday life.
The UCSB page has since been deleted, whether due to action by the college or by Facebook is unknown. Unfortunately, this trend isn't limited to immature college students by any means. One quick search brought up a number of Facebook pages dedicated to the pictures — Snapchat Exposed, two different Snapchat Leaked pages, Snapchat Shame, and Embarrassing Snapchat Leaks, among others.
All of these pages had tens of thousands of likes — the least popular was just over 34,000, with the most popular at over 370,000 followers. Thankfully, due to Facebook's image policy, images with nudity were largely deleted — though plenty of women in lingerie remain. (Snapchat Shame posted a picturing giving the finger to "people who decide to like our page then report/complain about the photos appearing on there [sic] news feed.")
The pages are elsewhere on the Internet as well. Twitter has a number of pages, and Tumblr thankfully shut down a page called "Snapchat Sluts." So why aren't these pages receiving the media disdain that the Creepshots did?
The answer is clear — these exposed women (and men) aren't seen as victims. Just like a rape victim who wore a skirt that was "too short," these individuals are seen as asking for it. Consider Gawker's coverage, entitled "'Snapchat Sluts' Shows Why Snapchat Isn't the Consequence-Free Sexting App We'd All Hoped For." This violation is seen as a "consequence" for the clearly irresponsible behavior — sexting — instead of as non-consensual behavior. And it certainly doesn't help that many of the individuals being exposed may never know their photo has made it online.
The Huffington Post calls this trend the newest "Revenge Porn." I'll go one further — this trend is sexual abuse, and needs to be treated as such by the websites allowing such content to continue.