While the massive celebrity photo leak — which included explicit pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Kate Upton, and others — began on 4chan, the epicenter for those sharing and commenting on the pictures quickly shifted to Reddit’s r/TheFappening page. That page remained active through the week.
In addition to r/TheFappening, Reddit also banned other related pages including r/fappening, a similarly named but different page that was used as a backup to the main page.
According to johnsmcjohn, the user who claims to have created the original page, it received “more than 250,000,000 page views in less than a week.”
Johnsmcjohn wrote that he was not happy Reddit took the page down, and believed it was due to pressure from the company’s lawyers. He added that he created r/TheFappening while using r/Celebs, another Reddit page devoted to celebrities. It went on to see explosive growth:
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.
Later, he said “being part of history” is the reason he wanted r/TheFappening to continue. “I want this to keep going,” he wrote.
In a statement on Reddit’s blog, the site explained it’s reasons for taking down the page.
The statement indicates that Reddit “expeditiously removed content” when owners of that content asked them to. It continues:
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.
The statement goes on to say 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.”
Reactions on Twitter to this event:
Still not defending /r/TheFappening, but hard to reconcile banning one subreddit for “illegal content” while leaving /r/SexWithDogs intact.
— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) September 7, 2014
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) September 7, 2014
@JimDalrympleII they waited until everyone had a chance to see it, benefitted from the spike in traffic, and then played the good guy card..
— Kristine A (@kmanderson31) September 7, 2014