“Mi stai facendo il video? Bravo.”
Translation: “You’re making a video? Good.”
These are the words that would eventually transform into a living, breathing monster that would haunt 31-year-old Tiziana Cantone until her death.
It all began in spring 2015 when the Italian woman uttered these words at the beginning of a sex tape she made with a man. For reasons still not entirely understood, Cantone ended up sending the video clip to her ex-boyfriend after they broke up, and at least three other friends who she trusted. In an unfortunate but not surprising reaction in our day and age, it wasn’t long before the video was published online for all to see as revenge porn.
(Related: The Disturbing World of Revenge Porn)
The phrase at the beginning of the video would quickly turn into a viral meme and quotable phrase across Cantone’s home country of Italy. Jeering comments, mocking memes and cruel video parodies, many of which used her real full name, turned her private moment into a viral internet sensation. The video began popping up all over Facebook so frequently that Cantone had to take the issue to court, where she eventually won the ruling and forced Facebook to automatically remove the abusive posts. However, as is the case with the ever-changing internet, the damage was too large to control. The sexually explicit video had already been copied and republished thousands of times to porn sites and other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. The image of Cantone, who also had a large Instagram presence, would become an unrelenting internet joke that wouldn’t stop for over a year.
The phrase from the video was printed on T-shirts and smartphone cases, worn and carried through the streets of Italy as some sort of joke, the BBC reported. And no matter how hard the woman tried, it was impossible to escape. Cantone’s legal requests with Google, Yahoo, and YouTube to try to remove the videos, which she never wanted public, were denied. She was only successful in having the video removed from Facebook, where it resurged daily, and had moved cities to escape the internet storm hanging over her head. She was even in the process of changing her name when she was found dead—the harassment had gotten so bad that she couldn’t even be herself anymore.
Since first popping up in 2015, the video had been viewed millions of times and what had become her catchphrase — “Mi stai facendo il video? Bravo.” — was plastered everywhere online until it all came to a bitter end. On Tuesday, September 13, Tiziana Cantone was found dead, hanging at her aunt’s home in Italy. Unable to handle the constant and unrelenting criticism and shaming that crept into every minute of her life, she saw no other end than to take her own life.
Her mother said that during the past year, Cantone began drinking alcohol excessively to deal with it all and had already attempted to take her own life twice before succeeding this third time, BCC reported. “She was hurting and at times took refuge in alcohol. But she was always a healthy and normal girl,” her mother, Maria Teresa, told investigators, according to La Reppublica.
Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi told the BBC that the Italian government is helpless to stop the videos.
“As a government, there’s not a lot that we can do,” Renzi said. “It’s mainly a cultural battle — also a social and political battle. Our commitment is try to do everything we can. … Violence against women is not an ineradicable phenomenon.” Much criticism has surrounded the case, considering Cantone not only was continually mercilessly mocked after winning her court battle, but was also ordered to pay 20,000 euros (about $22,475) in legal fees, which, as the Guardian noted, many local media outlets called the “final insult.”
“She was suffering from everything she saw and heard and in particular from the outcome of the legal proceedings because she believed justice had not been done,” her mother told the BBC.
After news of her death broke, the story made a quick change from scorn to support. The story of Tiziana Cantone had become so well known in the country that her funeral was broadcast by Italy’s national public broadcasting company. A local newspaper published a scathing article aimed at the fact that the videos are still accessible. In the piece, the writer admits to recently downloading the video to prove that one could.
“Why are these images still there? Why can people still mock and laugh at this young woman who ended her days because of this humiliation that she suffered?” wrote Il Mattino.
Author Roberto Saviano blamed her death on Italy’s attitude toward sex. He tweeted, “I grieve for Tiziana, who killed herself because she was a woman in a country where uninhibited and playful sex is still the worst of sins.”
“I wonder how anyone can be so fierce, how to rage against a girl who has not done anything wrong,” Teresa Petrosino, a friend of Cantone’s, told the Corriere Della Sera. “I think that they should be ashamed, all those who have filled the web of insults and meanwhile secretly watched the images.”
The four people that were originally send the video by Cantone are being investigated for defamation and “incitement to suicide,” but the Local noted that it is often difficult to determine the necessary motive for suicide in such a case.
As if to only prove further that this tragic event was made worse by our society’s porn culture, top search suggestions when Tiziana Cantone’s name is typed into Google suggests Tiziana Cantone video watch, Tiziana Cantone tape, and Tiziana Cantone meme. In a time where a family is suffering and a girl is dead, it seems that many just want to see the video that started it all.
Fight the New Drug is heartbroken to hear about this story. While it’s still not clear why the video was originally filmed and then sent to others, it doesn’t matter—the resulting harassment and scorn left a real human being feeling like taking her own life was the only way out. That’s never okay. No one deserves that. In our generation of sexting and revenge porn, the consequences of pressing send or posting something on social media can be life-altering.
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