(This post was first published on Medium.com)
About a week ago, I posted the following tweet:
I have such complicated thoughts about the Ashley Madison hack, much of which comes down to "schadenfreude is ugly and unworthy of us".
— Jay Dot Zhang (@phirephoenix) August 19, 2015
In the week since a lot of new information has come to light. There has been a second, larger dump with source code and the CEO’s email. We know about “family values” activist Josh Duggar’s account on the site (for which he seems to be more apologetic than, you know, molesting his sisters). We know about women and members of the LGBTQ population living in repressive regimes whose lives have been put at serious risk because of the leak. We know there are already mercenary “security experts” that are using the public’s fear to harvest email addresses for scams. We are starting to see real-world fall-out, including at least two possible suicides that have been linked to this.
In other words, things have gotten a lot more complicated.
This issue is about much more than infidelity. It’s about our vicious delight in negativity, the inevitable failure of computer security and computer literacy, the collateral damage of schadenfreude, the normalization of vigilante justice, and a collective desire for black-and-white judgments.
This is going to get long. Bear with me. Continue reading