Popular online forum Reddit recently banned a page featuring nude celebrity photos that were part of a massive hack. But the site, often criticized for its lax response to misogynistic posts, has kept another page alive that publishes stolen nude photos of non-famous women. The decision to keep one page over the other puts its own free-sharing principles into question, and makes the site appear to value celebrities’ privacy more than that of average people.
The celebrity photos originally appeared on the website 4chan.com over the Labor Day weekend. Reddit pulled the “/r/thefappening” subpage that hosted several links to nude photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton whose Apple iCloud accounts were recently hacked. The photos gave Reddit an exorbitant amount of traffic before the shutdown, and nearly put the site in danger of crashing, according to a Mashable report.
But the subpage “/r/photoplunder,” which features nude pictures of everyday women, under the subtitle “They should know better,” is still up and running. The page is a reincarnate of a former subreddit that was shut down for posting nude pictures of women from private profiles. The photos in “/r/photoplunder” are purported to be sourced only from public profiles across the Web.
Reddit’s policy dictates that it will only remove illegal — not “morally objectionable” — content. According to a statement entitled “Every Man Is Responsible For His Own Soul,” the site only banned the “/r/thefappening” page because the situation became legally untenable, not because users found it offensive. But the proclamation that Reddit refuses to ban controversial or defamatory content, coupled with the announcement that it would take down the “/r/thefappening” page — and leave up a similarly offensive page — has only led to more confusion among users.
“Our general stance on this stuff is that reddit is a platform, and there are times when platforms get used for very deplorable things. We take down things we’re legally required to take down, and do our best to keep the site getting from spammed or manipulated, and beyond that we try to keep our hands off,” Reddit systems administrator Jason Harvey wrote separate statement Saturday. “Still, in the moment, seeing what we were seeing happen, it was hard to see much merit to that viewpoint.”
Reddit has previously faced criticism for allowing threads that glorify controversial topics and behavior. Subreddits promoting domestic violence with graphic images of real women who had been brutalized, for example, weren’t banned from the site after users begged Reddit to take down the page. Reddit has also been central in helping distribute revenge porn — sexually explicit photos of women disseminated by a spurned lover — and “creepshots.” The latter features photos of women in suggestive positions or scenarios without their consent.
Other social media sites similarly struggle with allowing or banning content that is potentially offensive or graphic. Social media giants Facebook and Twitter have seen their fair share of controversies when they have chosen to ban or allow certain kinds of content.
In the past, Facebook deleted user profiles featuring pictures of babies in bathing suits at the beach or breastfeeding mothers because it said the images violated their policies. Yet the social network ignored requests to remove graphic “rape memes,” and is also facing a $123 million lawsuit over its indifference to one revenge porn page.
Twitter has also faced backlash over its indifferent approach to violent or misogynistic content. Critics say the site’s harassment policies do little to protect women from constant harassment and fail to take death and rape threats seriously. Twitter only recently decided to revamp its harassment policies after the late comedian and actor Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams, vowed to quit the site because of the disturbing altered images of her father other users sent her.