In the News / Social Media

Hashtag #backlash – How J-Law’s leak did even more damage to social media

IMG_6098.JPGFollowing the publication of stolen images of up to 100 film stars and celebrities on the 4Chan forum, social media has responded in the only way it knows how, with a hoax hashtag.

News of the photos being posted on the image sharing website broke on Sunday and early on Monday as the US celebrated the Labor Day national holiday. But for some stars, including Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence, the mood was far from celebratory. Photos of J-Law (as she is known colloquially) in states of undress emerged and were subsequently re-posted across a variety of websites and social media platforms. (See my interview on Arise News)

In response to the publication of the images, apparently stolen from the Cloud, fans of the star have been posting pictures of themselves under the hashtag ‘#LeakForJLaw’.

The campaign, which also originated on the 4Chan forum, has already seen hundreds of social network users post explicit nude pictures in ‘solidarity’ with Lawrence. Whether the campaign started as a sympathetic means of support for celebrities caught out by the leak or is a cynical way to encourage more gratuitous nudity on the internet is not certain, but regardless, some users have taken the message at face value and posted naked photos of themselves.

Twitter was soon flooded with naked images from male and female users, but these have been systematically deleted as they breach the social network’s terms and conditions.


Users of 4Chan are believed to be responsible for similar hoax hashtags in the past. In January 2013, after pictures of Justin Bieber emerged allegedly showing him smoking marijuana, anonymous members of the 4Chan community seemingly encouraged young fans to ‘shame’ the young singer into stopping his drug use by self-harming using the hashtag #CutForBieber. Before that, an internet troll suggested Bieber had been diagnosed with cancer and encouraged his young and vulnerable fans to cut off their hair and take photos in support.

This is a very real but very dark side of social media, where a few disturbing individuals can quickly gather support through the instant and largely unregulated online networks and communities. The social networks themselves must take some responsibility, but to take action and remove posts they must usually be alerted to them by other users.

Despite recent successes, such as the #icebucketchallenge and #bringbackourgirls, organisations must take care not to be caught out by their own campaigning hashtags. Recent examples of genuine marketing campaigns to have caught the imaginations of social media users and gone viral for the wrong reasons have included Susan Boyle’s 2013 album release #susanalbumparty and the Chester Literature Festival’s #clitfest.

If you are using social media to promote your organisation or engage with customers or clients, beware. Here are five tips to make sure you get the best out of social media:

  1. Choose your hashtag wisely. Before you send the tweet or sign off the campaign, check what other people see and avoid the negative publicity that might come with misplaced emphasis.
  2. Hijacking an existing campaign. Macmillan recently tried to use the #icebucketchallenge to divert funds from ALS to their own cause, which ultimately backfired.
  3. Stop and think. Before you involve yourself personally in a campaign, whether nominated or not, consider how your actions or support may be viewed by friends, family and your employer.
  4. What message are you sending? Any campaign should be appropriate to the cause you are seeking to support or promote.
  5. Late to the party? Joining in with a social media campaign can be great for your reputation, but if you get involved too late you could just be seen as #passé or out of touch.




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