Tiziana Cantone's body was found Tuesday after she hanged herself at her aunt's home. The 31-year-old Italian had suffered online abuse when a video of herself having sex was posted online after she sent it to her ex.
Cantone's video went viral in 2015, with people sharing it not only on social media and WhatsApp, but also creating memes based on stills and quotes from it. The footage was even featured on multiple porn websites, and Cantone couldn't seem to stop the video from spreading.
Despite her quitting her job, and even starting a process to change her name, the online use of her pictures and words grew more and more rampant.
But she fought back, and filed legal requests with Google, Yahoo and even YouTube to have her video and pictures removed. She even won a "right to be forgotten" ruling after a long court battle, ordering the original video to be taken off various sites, including Facebook.
But at the same time, she was handed a 20,000-euro ($22,500) bill for legal costs, which made her feel humiliated, her mother Maria Teresa told the Italian "La Repubblica" newspaper. "Tiziana believed justice had not been done," her mother explained. And as many users pointed out on social media, Cantone was not alone in her struggle.
'Slaughtered and humiliated'
"I felt like I had been slaughtered. Humiliated in front of everyone. More than that, I felt like someone was taking control over my body, and I didn't belong to myself anymore," says 21-year-old Julie, whose naked pictures were widely shared on WhatsApp when she was 17.
"My boyfriend at the time begged me to send him some pictures of myself. He said that it would make him happy, telling me things like, 'Wouldn't you do it for your boyfriend?' So eventually I did it."
Julie, who wishes to remain anonymous, admits she was so excited by the fact that someone was interested in her and wanted to be with her that it pushed her to accept his arguments. But one day, she felt people were looking at her differently.
"I will never forget the looks I received in school after realizing everyone had seen my pictures. Even my teacher turned her back on me. She told me that it was my fault for taking them in the first place and that it was my problem. I felt like I would never get over it," she tells DW over the phone.
Julie started hurting herself with a razor following the incident, and if it wasn't for her friends and family, she says, "I would have committed suicide too. It felt at times like it was the only way out."
One particular quote from Cantone's video has become a national joke, in which she can be heard saying "Mi stai facendo il video? Bravo," or "You're making the video? Good."
That phrase has been printed on T-shirts, smartphone cases and other items, and has been used by Italian companies as well as football players and other celebrities. And despite her winning in court, memes and merchandise of Tiziana's quotes were still easy to find.
"Ever since, I have always felt as if I am naked, no matter how many big clothes I wear. I feel like everyone can see through them," says Julie. "And even worse, to this day I feel that if someone is talking to me, it's probably because they want to see me naked. They want my pictures. It has been very hard for me to create new friendships."
An investigation has been opened as to whether a case can be made for "incitement to suicide," but prosecutors might never be able to determine the real cause of Cantone's decision.
In the meanwhile, social media users are furious, pointing out the double standards according to which people are both secretly watching the video, yet also criticizing Cantone.
Some are claiming that had Tiziana been a man, not only would she still be alive, but even crowned as a hero. "Hypocritical society," the tweet summarizes.
Others have mentioned Italy's fertility campaign to stress the impossible expectations had of women.
"Many times I have thought to myself, 'What if I just stop breathing and simply die?'" says Julie, who also claims to understand Cantone's decision. For her, it's not the suicide that should be criticized, but the act of deliberately spreading such content against someone's will.
"You tell me - why would anyone do such thing in the first place? Why?"
Culled m.dw.com - deutsche well