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Reddit finally shut down, r/TheFappening, the main distribution source of the hacked celebrity nude photos this weekend. Redditors were confused and furious after the deed was done, which coincided with the site releasing a statement saying it would not change its policies regarding the distribution of nude photos.
It’s been a week since nude photos stolen from 101 iCloud accounts appeared on the web, including those belonging to Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Jill Scott, the underaged McKayla Maroney, and others. Reddit has been one of the main sources of distribution of the photos, with lead skeeze forum r/TheFappening continuing to recirculate them (even after the site had taken the links and thumbnails down).
Yesterday, Reddit finally came forward with a statement about the issue, saying that it was complying with all legal demands to take down photos and links, which is difficult as Reddit becomes caught between the victims and the actual content hosts. However, the site said as a “government of a new type of community,” it would restrain the use of its powers and not force its users to behave in the
human way that the site would wish.
“You choose what to post. You choose what to read…we will try not to interfere - not because we don’t care, but because we care that you make your choices between right and wrong,” Reddit said in its post.
Reddit reiterated that while it may find the circulation of such photos deplorable, it says its users have the right to post the content and would not change the site's core policies because of the photo leak.
But, shortly after Reddit posted said statement, it took down r/TheFappening, causing outrage on the site. Reddit said that in an amazingly timed coincidence, the subreddit had violated other rules (such as the ban against posting nude photos of minors) just as it had released its previous statement. But, in a more in-depth post from a system administrator, it was revealed that the site couldn’t keep up with the legal requests to take down photos as users kept reposting them.
Reddit is known for freely shared text and photos among its community, and its ideal, that “virtuous behavior is only virtuous if it is not arrived at by compulsion,” is admirable.
But, at the same time, it has also made some hard and fast rules on protecting people against unduly cruel harassment. In 2012, Reddit made a hard and fast rule against doxxing — to stop people from witch hunts by releasing personal information — with only journalistic institutions exempt from the ban. Which raises the question: If Reddit finds it moral and within their ethos to ban doxxing, why can’t the site ban the spread of stolen photos?
Sites like Reddit alone can't stop people from feeling entitled to look at women's naked bodies whether said women want them to or not — an issue that's pervading our culture, stoked by anonymity and the illusion of zero consequences. And, while it's not necessarily Reddit's responsibility to be a champion of protecting women, its stance has made it clear that it cares more about the rights of a few of its readers than making women — also a large amount of Reddit users — feel safe.
But, it’s a fine line. The only thing worse than this would be for Reddit to have to shut down its whole site over these kinds of situations. Perhaps better policies would not only protect women, but could help Reddit itself from being overwhelmed by legal action.
And, before we hear more cries of “man blaming,” note this: Reddit titled its post "Every Man Is Responsible For His Own."
In this case, Reddit took that responsibility as its own.