(CNN) — The threat to release nude photos of actress Emma Watson was an attempt to start a viral marketing campaign to shutter the site 4chan.
After her impassioned speech for gender equality last weekend at the United Nations, Watson faced backlash, including a threat to leak alleged nude photos of the star.
Business Insider reported that an anonymous 4chan user had posted a countdown timer with a picture of the “Harry Potter” actress wiping away a tear hinting that she could become the next star to have her iCloud hacked and personal photos dispersed for the world to see.
Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian and Gabrielle Union are among the celebrities recently to have private, intimate photos splashed across the Internet. The 4chan site is where the hacked, nude photos of these other female stars initially appeared.
On Wednesday, the site mentioned in the anonymous user’s posting, EmmaYouAreNext.com, was redirecting to the company Rantic Marketing with the message #ShutDown4chan.
“Join us as we shutdown 4chan and prevent more private pictures from being leaked,” a message on the site says. “None of these women deserve this and together we can make a change.”
There is also a letter to President Barack Obama that reads, “We have been hired by celebrity publicists to bring this disgusting issue to attention. The recent 4chan celebrity nude leaks in the past 2 months have been an invasion of privacy and is also clear indication that the internet NEEDS to be censored. Every Facebook like, share & Twitter mention will count as a social signature — and will be one step closer to shutting down www.4chan.org. ”
Visitors to the site are offered a link to send the letter to the White House. Rantic bills itself on its site as “a social media marketing enterprise that has participated in some of the most viral campaigns and music videos.”
So far there is no evidence that nude pictures of Watson actually exist; 4chan, the online message board, has become known as a place where pranksters previously have posted hoaxes.
Writing for The Washington Post, Soraya Nadia McDonald tied the threat, as well as false Internet reports that Watson had died, to “a long history of this sort of bullying aimed at women on the Internet, especially feminists.”
“It’s just the latest in a long history of online efforts to intimidate, belittle, threaten and cow women into hiding and shutting up — the message, of course, being, if you dare to do or say something we don’t like, we’ll expose you in return,” McDonald wrote.
Watson’s speech, delivered Saturday as part of her role as a goodwill ambassador for U.N. Women, drew attention for her poignant remarks about the need for equality and for men to embrace feminism.
“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive,” she said. “If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. … It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals.”