(For reference, when I say “Reddit” here, I’m referring to the owners and administrators, not the vast majority of users. I’ll also be posting examples of subreddits (though not linking to them) which I strongly advise you do not visit.)
Many of you will be aware of “the fappening” that occurred a couple of weeks ago – this is the name for the mass leak of celebrities’ private photos to the internet. While the photos were hosted on various sites around the internet, it was primarily Reddit.com that was a focal point for dissemination of these photos, on the /r/TheFappening subreddit (“subreddit” is the term that Reddit uses for “sub forum”).
Reddit’s initial response to this was minimal. They were clearly aware of it, they apparently set new traffic records thanks to people trying to view these photos, but they chose to not do anything about it. This has been Reddit’s modus operandi for its entire history – hiding behind weak “freedom of speech” arguments until the pressure becomes too much – for example, they refused to delete /r/underage (a child porn subreddit) until massive public outcry forced them. It wasn’t until it became apparent that some of the photos in “the fappening” were of underage celebrities that they actually started to delete them en masse, previously choosing to force the victims to submit DMCA requests to have them taken down. The DMCA is a fairly useless tool in this respect, as Reddit users would simply re-upload the photos to a new location, and re-post them.
In this case (unlike many other cases), the victims of “the fappening” are actually able to take action, as they can afford lawyers to force Reddit’s hand. Victims of /r/PhotoPlunder, a revenge porn subreddit, often cannot afford lawyers, or aren’t even aware that their private photos have been posted to a public forum. There are subreddits like /r/PicsOfDeadKids and /r/CuteFemaleCorpses, which, while not containing any illegal content, would clearly cause trauma for friends or families of the deceased.
Then there’s the plainly illegal content, such as /r/SexWithDogs and /r/BeatingWomen2, which contain exactly the content their names describe. Despite being made aware of such subreddits many times, Reddit’s leadership refuses to act on them.
So, what can you do?
If you’re a celebrity (and I know my little blog has many celebrity readers!), it’s likely that you’ve been approached by Reddit, or your publicist, to do an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) thread. Until they change their policies, I’d encourage you to refuse all such requests. If Reddit will happily exploit your privacy for a few extra page views, why should you legitimize them?
If you’re a person who contributes to one of the many legitimate subreddits, perhaps it’s time to look for a new home for your contributions. The StackExchange network has many sites (both technical and non-technical) that reward experts for their contributions. If you’re after a creative outlet, there are many communities built up around writing, art, music, and every other creative activity you can think of! (If you have a favourite, post it in the comments!)
And if you just read Reddit for the entertainment on the front page, perhaps it’s time to reconsider supporting them with your clicks and page views. I promise you, there are many other sites that are willing to provide you with entertaining cat videos, without also implicitly supporting illegal or abusive behaviour. (For example, Fark have excellent policies, not allowing abusive or illegal content.)
Finally, remember that Reddit won’t be around forever. Just like Digg before them, something else will come up and become the new place for pop culture on the internet. With a bit of luck, you could be one of the people who get to influence the next big thing for the better. 🙂