Reddit, Saturday evening banned the subreddit TheFappening less than a week after the highly contentious group shot into high profile prominence. The ban comes after controversy surrounding the Jennifer Lawrence leaks and the outlet acting as a depositary for images relating to Celebgate.
While the initial leaks of nude images of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and super model Kate Upton is said to have started on 4chan and sister messaging board, Anon1B, it would be TheFappening where droves of social media users would flock to unabashedly gawk at leaked images.
In many instances users would openly express their desire to view new leaks as soon as they made their way online, with many threads dedicated to the discussion and anticipation of new images, including one recent thread which giddily speculated over a new trove of images courtesy this weekend of twitter handle, FappeningReport.
Along with TheFappening, other subdomain reddit groups associated with the highly controversial subreddit would be closed, including: TheSecondCumming, TheRealFappening, Fappening, NewFappening, celebritynudearchive.
Prior to its closure, the subreddit purportedly amassed more than 250 million page views and just under 150K subscribers. Not bad work for reddit and its owner Conde Nast who presumably had a field day with increased ad revenue.
The subreddit’s originator Johnsmcjohn would issue a statement where he told pressure from lawyers contesting copyrights to leaked images had created fricture with administrators who by now were more than aware that they had increasingly become perceived a pariah outlet.
Told Johnsmcjohn: I created /r/TheFappening on sunday, and while I didn’t intend for it to be the fastest growing sub in history, it was. I want to point out that our mod team worked their asses off to ensure that pics that violated reddit’s rules were removed. And we prevented the doxx of the “leaker” as well. I know we aren’t going to be considered the good guys, but we worked hard to ensure reddit’s rules were followed.
Addressing reasons why it has chosen to ban the subreddit, reddit admins placed the following statement:
While current US law does not prohibit linking to stolen materials, we deplore the theft of these images and we do not condone their widespread distribution.
Nevertheless, reddit’s platform is structurally based on the ability for people to distribute, promote, and highlight textual materials as well as links to images and other media. We understand the harm that misusing our site does to the victims of this theft, and we deeply sympathize.
Having said that, we are unlikely to make changes to our existing site content policies in response to this specific event.
The reason is because we consider ourselves not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community. The role and responsibility of a government differs from that of a private corporation, in that it exercises restraint in the usage of its powers.
Buzzfeed would note that administrators ‘uphold the ideal of free speech’ and try not to interfere ‘because we care that you make your choices between right and wrong.’
The banning of the group has since led to outcry as to why other subreddits with equally contentious images, discussion boards (promoting violence) and morally ambiguous boards remain. An issue that admins have addressed in the past telling that they seek to act as a conduit for the free expression of ideas and not to moralize as to what is permissible or not. A concept that might be challenged going forward as to what counts as free speech and expression, irrespective if many may find such thoughts or images reprehensible as the mainstream press conspicuously did this week.
Buzzfeed would also note reddit users raised similar concerns, while others accused the company of caving to media and legal pressure (an assertion easy to make when one’s own neck is not on the line).
Reddit CEO Yishan Wong responded by saying ‘we don’t ban subreddits for being morally bad.’
Asked about Reddit pages that show explicit photos of dead women and photos of dead children, he said there are pages ‘we don’t like, but which we choose not to exercise our power to delete them.’
Wong also dismissed the idea that banning r/TheFappening was prompted by media attention:
What a big media blowup might do is prompt us to make a statement clarifying our principles and feelings about the matter, as a way of contributing to the dialogue around that event. That is what you’re seeing here. In fact, this even was starting to fade but we decided it was a good time to talk about what we believe in and where we are trying to take reddit.
What hasn’t been said publicly (yet) is the legal contention of going up against celebrities with vast sums of money at their disposal, the entertainment industry who are more than ready and financially able to pose a formidable challenge to Conde Naste and other media outlets (including ours) who have decided it’s one thing to challenge what counts as free expression and what to present on the web, but an all together another arena when the threat of litigation from the entertainment industry comes knocking at one’s door. Even for media behemoths like Conde Naste.