Two days ago, a video of a woman begging for forgiveness from her husband’s relatives after an extra-marital affair went viral on Whatsapp. Yesterday, yet another video of a woman being violently stripped at a kombi rank was posted widely on social media. While both videos have brought forward discussions around patriarchy and cultural practices, the real issue remains the fact that they were even shared to begin with.
In the first video, it seems that a family member involved in the mediation over the woman’s affair took the video. That someone would even think of filming – and then sharing such content – boggles the mind. And yet it is the logical deduction that one must make; that someone sat and filmed as this woman wept and pleaded with her in-laws for forgiveness and then decided to humiliate her further by sharing the content as widely as they could.
Leaked sex videos and nude pictures featuring both public figures and less prominent individuals have recently been making headlines in different media in Zimbabwe with prominence being granted according to the persons being discussed. The embarrassment, damage or loss associated with each of these leaks has, however, not stopped the next video from being recorded or leaked. Instead, it seems people have now become more efficient in the distribution of these personal videos and images.
Some of these leaks have resulted in the sudden end of relationships, or even budding careers. A month into her reign as Miss Zimbabwe 2014, Thabiso Phiri had to surrender the crown after an allegedly vengeful boyfriend decided to release a set of her nude pictures to the public.
Before that, Tinopona Katsande, who still has a seemingly pending labour case at the courts, was dismissed by her employer, ZiFM, after her sex video was leaked to the public by an ex-lover. Also, former Big Brother housemate, Pokello Nare, and then boyfriend Stunner had to face a similar predicament after an unknown individual accessed and distributed a video of them having sex. Pokello later indicated that she had not been aware that she was being recorded. Reports, however, say that Stunner was aware of the recording but had no intention of sharing the video with the public.
Both print and electronic media have been making a meal of these scandals, coming up with catchy headlines for their exposés, especially when these feature celebrities. Within such reportage, the media only have naming and shaming as their agenda, with content based on titillating and coaxing audiences, and passing judgement. There really is nothing more to these stories and it is unfortunate that in most cases, women bear the brunt of this shame since their male counterparts are usually the videographers or cameramen, and are barely ever visible.
Since its establishment in 2009 H-Metro tabloid, together with mainstream newspapers, has been giving coverage to sensational stories about witchcraft, illicit love affairs and a host of other topics. As the news agenda seems to shift more and more away from nation building and critical discussion, what is more likely to get more attention is what is barely of importance to readers’ lived realities.
And the long term effects of these ‘revelations’ are telling.
From just one video or picture, individuals have been labelled with derogatory titles that are perpetually used to refer to them. For a while, Pokello was labelled a ‘porn star’ and during her stay in Big Brother house, viewers had great expectations that she would live up to the ‘title’. As such, she had to work to prove her capabilities in business through her fashion business, for the media to start portraying her as a multi-dimensional human being.
Who can be trusted?
What I have found of even greater concern when sex tapes and nude pictures are exposed is the carelessness that is shown when it comes to digital communication. Indeed, the digital revolution has ushered in an age where video and audio recording are no longer the preserve of trained journalists as ordinary citizens have become their own news people.
In most cases, we entrust our not-so-private gadgets – with all their delicate information – to people we believe have our best interests at heart, thus giving them access to all contents saved on theses gadgets. But as trends show, it is usually trusted partners and acquaintances who leak such dearly guarded content.
While we have certain norms that we have become accustomed to, such as trusting the people around us to naturally respect our privacy, this is increasingly something we have to review in the new media era. In a workplace setting, we don’t expect anyone to go through our computer or phone without permission if we take a bathroom break, yet this is possible. If you do not systematically log off from your accounts and your phone gets stolen, there are consequences to someone having free access to your communication.
One application that has proven to be cheaper faster and efficient is Whatsapp. One can share a picture with more than 50 people in a group or a broadcast message in less than 5 minutes. This cannot be reversed as it is impossible to take back information that has already been delivered by digital means.
A common saying states that ‘Your security is as strong as your weakest link’, emphasising the fact that what you share is only as secure as who you share it with. If a person is not aware of how a security feature functions and its purposes, then no matter how strong it is they will not use it, and you will remain at risk. Also, if a person is not fully trustworthy – and this is something that is difficult to gauge – then your content is again insecure. Read these tips also for more information on how to avoid being a victim.
These are points we all have to consider in our daily operations online.