I was blogging yesterday about the Ashley Madison data leak, and was also beginning to ponder the thought that it really is not something to laugh about or endorse in any way simply because it exposed some rather glaring religious hypocrisy, and so in that context something additional has popped up that re-enforces that thought.
The Ashley Madison leaks, as many observers began noting yesterday afternoon, will have real world, devastating consequences on thousands of users worldwide. When the dust clears, it will be most vulnerable among us — LGBT and women in repressive countries — that will ultimately pay the price. And unlike Josh Duggar, their price will not be paid in snarky internet comments but rather loss of employment, family, and, in some cases, possibly their lives.
As one anonymous gay man in Saudi Arabia noted on reddit after the leak was exposed last month:
I am from a country where homosexuality carries the death penalty. I studied in America the last several years and used Ashley Madison during that time. (For those of you who haven’t been following the story, Ashley Madison has been hacked and its users’ names and addresses are on the verge of being exposed.) I was single, but used it because I am gay; gay sex is punishable by death in my home country so I wanted to keep my hookups extremely discreet.
I only used AM to hook up with single guys.
… and that really is something completely different.
The theft of the data has not only exposed married people out for a quick fling, it has put at extreme risk people who need to remain hidden and under the radar because they simply happen to have been born with a different sexuality, and now face horrendous risks.
Given a choice between exposing the religious hypocrisy of Josh Duggar, or keeping the LGBT community safe, it really is a no brainer.
So how bad is this leak?
It’s bad … very very bad … large numbers are now exposed to huge risks as a result …
The BBC reported that over 1,200 users have .sa email domains. Not only is adultery illegal in Saudi Arabia, it’s punishable by death. Though death sentences for adultery are exceedingly rare, the exposure of this crime can lead to lesser charges and social shaming. Homosexuality and cross-dressing can also lead to imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, capital punishment, and whipping/flogging.
1,450 accounts from Turkey have been found. While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey it can get one kicked out or banned from military service. Adultery, while not illegal, does carry great moral shame that disproportionately affects women.
53 accounts with a .qa domain have been exposed. Homosexual relationships are illegal in Qatar, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Adultery is punishable by 100 lashes and when the woman is Muslim and the man is not, the woman can be put to death. Again, these punishments are rare but they are a real threat.