Social networking and news site Reddit may have banned ‘The Fappening’ – a community dedicated to posting the nude celebrity photos leaked last month – but the site continues to play host to multiple dedicated forums (or 'subreddits') that collect and share the ‘banned’ images.
Appropriately for a site that calls itself the “front page of the Internet”, Reddit was perhaps the main center of distribution for the photos stolen from the iCloud accounts of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton.
Although the images were originally posted on anonymous image sharing board 4chan, ‘The Fappening’ provided a stable home for them, with the various links and discussions reportedly attracting more than 250 million views to the site in a matter of days.
After widespread criticism Reddit banned ‘The Fappening’ –citing copyright law rather than the invasion of celebrities’ privacy – but not before reportedly collecting enough money via their premium subscription service Reddit Gold to power their servers for a month.
John Meneses, the 33-year-old salesman who created the subreddit, told Wired magazine: “If Reddit had wanted to, they could have banned us on Sunday when our traffic broke their servers. Instead, they chose to milk a week of publicity and a month of server time in Reddit gold before they stepped in.”
Reddit’s subsequent attempt to justify its actions as the defence of ‘free speech’ was also criticized as tone-deaf and hypocritical, with tech commentators pointing out that the site’s users regularly deplore government sponsored surveillance but seemed happy to share hacked images just because they belonged to celebrities.
Writing for The Verge, TC Sottek described Reddit as “a kleptocracy that speaks to lofty virtues while profiting from vice,” and the continuing proliferation of the images on the site will undoubtedly be seen by some as supporting this evaluation.
Since ‘The Fappening’ was banned, multiple copycats have been set up including ‘The Fappening Reborn’, ‘FappeningHarder’ and ‘TheFappening Rebooted’, with users continuing to share links collating the stolen images.
Mr Meneses has since said that he did “nothing wrong” by starting ‘The Fappening’ and that he was simply sharing what was already available online. He also added in an interview with the Daily Mail that his only regret was using a traceable username – as he felt his privacy had now been violated.
Reddit did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publicaiton.