When hundreds of nude photos of celebrities, like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, appeared online over Labor Day weekend, it was quickly established that it wasn’t just any leak — the photos were stolen in a massive hacking effort and the result is undeniably a sex crime.
Now, websites from Twitter to Reddit are taking steps to stop the distribution of those photos. Twitter has vowed to suspend the accounts of users who share links to the photos, and just today, Reddit announced that it was disbanding its “TheFappening” subreddit, a community dedicated to sharing nude photos of celebrities.
On one hand, taking steps to stop this is a commendable move by Reddit. On the other, it’s a half-hearted publicity stunt.
“We believe that you — the user — have the right to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and that it is your responsibility to do so,” Reddit CEO, Yishan Wong, wrote in a blog post Saturday. Reddit is famously hands-off when it comes to content. Its stated belief is that “each subreddit community has the right and responsibility to establish its own norms.” In some cases, this results in subreddits with harmless rules — nothing political on the subreddit for “funny” things, for example. In other cases, it means users are free to post some truly deplorable content.
Because of its “anything goes” approach, Reddit is central to, and instrumental in, the online distribution of “revenge porn,” which is typically nude photos shared online by exes in an attempt to get back at those who have spurned them. Revenge porn largely targets women. And, like the hacked celebrity photos that have had the media spotlight for the last few weeks, revenge porn represents a serious sex crime.
Subreddits like “PhotoPlunder,” which features nude pictures of women under the subtitle, “They should know better,” is still up and running, despite “TheFappening” having been shut down.
So, Reddit, I won’t commend your efforts to stop celebrity nude photos from spreading online. Your preferential treatment of celebrities, while refusing to crack down on similar crimes against “average” women, simply isn’t enough.