The Ethics of Looking at Justin Bieber's Naked Photos

August 5th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

As of this week, the internet has access to full-frontal photos of Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber, separately caught vacationing in the nude by paparazzi. Again, we must confront the ethical dilemma that is choosing to either view or ignore celebrity nudes.

For the most part, ethicists agree that publishing or leaking nude photos of celebrities without their permission represents a violation of individual privacy that, while in the legal gray area, is decidedly unethical. On a journalistic level, these images contribute little to no value in terms of public interest; they simply drive clicks on an impressive scale.

Here's the spike in Google searches for "Justin Bieber nudes" over the past 24 hours.


Isn't there are argument to be made, then, that seeking these celebrity nudes out is feeding a cycle of unethical behavior, reinforcing the role of paparazzi, media outlets, and hackers who stand to gain from their release? Is your click unethical?

Jennifer Ellis, a legal ethics attorney in Pennsylvania, says she wouldn't judge those who view the photos "quite as harshly" as those who stole, leaked, or published the photos in the first place.

"I think that's a very personal thing," Ellis told ATTN:. "I understand that people are curious and there's a curious nature of humanity — but I still think it's inappropriate."

Part of the ethical problem surrounding celebrity nudes is that there's a misconception about the privacy rights of famous people.


"That is a tension we see constantly," Ellis said. "'I just happen to disagree with that. I think celebrities do have a right to a certain amount of privacy and so I respect that."

As far as the law is concerned, there's no question that there's a big difference between stealing or leaking nude photos of public figures and seeking them out online. Unless the celebrity in question happens to be underage, in which case the photo is classified as child pornography, there's nothing illegal about viewing Bieber's naked body on Twitter. (Though Ellis emphasized that one would have to consult specific local and state laws "in regard to these issues.")

"Of course, I don't think that it's particularly likely that anyone's going to start going after members of the public who happen to look at this stuff unless it is again people collecting child pornography," Ellis said.

The verdict? Looking at Bieber's penis online isn't ethically good, per se. But we're all human and it's a lot different than taking the photos, publishing them, and reaping financial rewards.

RELATED: Why You Absolutely Shouldn't Look at the Naked Justin Bieber Photos