Italian prosecutor says he wants to find parties he believes were responsible for inciting womans suicide
No one knows why, in April last year, Tiziana Cantone sent a series of sex videos of herself to four friends, including a man she was dating.
What is certain is that events quickly spiralled out of her control. The videos shared on WhatsApp and pornography websites went viral and within weeks had spread around the world. Words she uttered to an unidentified partner Youre making a video? Good. became the punchline of countless memes. Cantone, 31, was so widely ridiculed that two Italian footballers Paolo Cannavaro and Antonio Floro Flores released their own video set in a supermarket using the phrase as a joke.
Cantone tried, but was ultimately unable to stop the tide that was rising against her. In September she hanged herself.
Now, not far from where she took her own life, a prosecutor named Francesco Greco is on the hunt to find the parties he believes were responsible for inciting Cantones suicide.
Through a liaison at the US embassy in Rome, he is asking the Department of Justice to intervene and force Apple to give him access to Cantones locked iPhone, which he said could give investigators reasons that caused the suicide. Unlike battles between the US authorities and Apple, he has emphasised that he is not looking for codes to unlock all phones, just that of Cantone.
Its important to pursue the case because a serious fact happened and we have to understand the reasons for it and there is a need for justice, Greco said.
Part of the problem for victims such as Cantone, he added, was how difficult it was to remove images and videos from the internet.
Its not like you can do it with a magic wand, he said. Citizens need to be protected. When something needs to be removed, people are confronted with [technology company] behemoths, which have staffs of lawyers, with headquarters that arent even in Italy, so its all very expensive.
A judicial tribunal in Naples is examining how the video was disseminated.
Greco conceded that the incitement to suicide was a difficult case to make, and that the lack of corrresponding laws in the US may hurt his chances of Apple cooperating with his investigation. But there have been other high-profile cases of online sexual bullying in the US that have been the subject of legal action.
In 2010 Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, killed himself after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and Ravis friend Molly Wei watched Clementi kissing another man through a webcam in Clementis dorm room and streamed the encounter live on Twitter. Ravi served 20 days in jail after being convicted on intimidation charges, but his conviction was reversed last month by an appeal court. He faces a new trial on charges of violating Clementis privacy. Wei was charged with invasion of privacy but struck a plea deal, agreeing to testify for the prosecution and perform community service.
For Cantone, who was described as fragile and depressed, the nightmare began on the day a friend called to say he had seen some of her videos on a porn site. Days later, they appeared on two other porn sites, and then another. There was a Facebook page dedicated to her, as the star of the videos, and fake profile pages using still images from the videos.
Cantone said in a legal complaint that she had initially shared the videos as part of a game. Her mother believed she was encouraged to make the videos by her boyfriend, according to La Stampa.
Cantone did win an important legal victory shortly before her death a court ordered the videos be removed from certain websites and search engines but she was then ordered to pay 20,000 (18,000) in legal costs. She killed herself a few days later.
On the day of Cantones funeral, as her coffin was taken away, her mother cried: She never betrayed anyone. She wasnt a porn star, she wasnt an escort. Give her back some dignity.
In Italy, the Samaritans can be contacted on 800 86 00 22. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.