Developing Reddit controversy: new Gawker ban, Reddit’s “creepshots”

These URLs have come into my inbox in multiples, and I want to share them with you because this is important. I do need to preload this discussion with the caveat that I am still wrecking shit in Malaysia and have not had time to investigate this issue or do analysis. It will probably be fun to circle back after there have been more developments and dig deeper when we see more reactions. I’m also curious to know what you think, feel free to jump in the comments here – I do approve anonymous comments, of course.

Two articles struggling to cover one topic might help frame the issue (the articles are not well written, but they have different pieces of the story). Here they are, with excerpts.


Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet, harbors some pretty unseemly stuff on its back pages, from a now-defunct forum called r/jailbait (sexually suggestive photos of underage girls) to one called r/creepshots (pictures of women taken in public without their knowledge). And some of its users get mighty defensive about their right to post and view these things anonymously.

So when Gawker’s Adrian Chen (a former Slate intern, years ago) told the Reddit member who created those particular subreddits that he planned to write a profile about him—presumably exposing his real-life identity—the site roared with indignation. Most notably, the moderators of r/politics—Reddit’s main politics channel—announced on Wednesday that they would ban all Gawker links from their page in retribution. Here’s their full statement (…)

(…) One subreddit in particular has been at the center of attention recently: /r/creepshots. Creepshots are non-consensual photos, most often of women, taken in public of parts of their bodies. Often those parts that have been unwittingly exposed, but not always. Upskirt shots are perhaps the most famous brand of creepshots. They’ve probably happened since cameras first became portable, but: ubiquity of mobile phones with cameras + anonymous Internet posting = creepshots run wild.

(…) One woman, fed up with the sense of violation that creepshots create, decided that she’d had enough. She created a Tumblr called Predditors (now removed, Google cached version here), where information about people posting in /r/creepshots was collected and shared. Personal information was made readily available by the creepshot posters themselves, through links in their profiles to other services, such as Facebook, where they identify themselves. Jezebel wrote about the Tumblr and its anonymous author. (…)

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  • viking gal

    Some of those photos were of underaged girls. Did they still ‘ask for’ their photos to be published for the salacious use by others? I don’t think so.

  • Steve

    Sorry Ariana. There is a difference between assault and taking pictures. If you don’t understand this difference, I suggest you join the Marine Corps or a police department to find out. Assault must not be tolerated in in a civilized society for any reason.
    Also who ever said your “worth is completely determined” by your physical appearance? Nothing I wrote implies that.
    Without getting into all the possible permutations, people of various orientations like to look at attractive young people. It’s human nature. Accept it.

  • Ariana

    @steve: Should young, attractive women also be grateful for the sexual assault that we ask for by dressing provocatively? Or should we just “get over” that as well?
    Also, I’m so glad that my worth as a person is completely determined by my physical appearance. I can’t imagine how sad i’ll be when i have nothing left that “matters”

  • Steve

    Would the prudes who run Reddit and those women who are upset by the posting of so-called “creep shots” get over it. I haven’t looked at all the images, but the ones I saw after reading Violet’s article were of young women with nice butts wearing stretch pants in public places. Any young woman should know that if she has a nice ass and goes out into a public place wearing tight stretch plants, she will be looked at by most men both young and old and a few women too. As virtually everyone in the industrialized world now carries a mobile phone with a camera in it, young women in tight pants should expect that now and then their fannies will be photographed, and some of these photos will wind up on the internet.
    Any young woman who does not want her derriere to be ogled and possibly photographed and put on the web should go out in public wearing loose-fitting clothing that hides her figure. However, young women, be warned by someone who has been there. By the time you are my age, few men and boys and even fewer other women will want to look at your butt, let alone photograph it. So enjoy your youth and the fact that people view you as a sexual person. Instead of whining about “creep shots,” download those photos and save them to your hard drives. Someday, they will be all you have that matters.

  • Nick

    Odd pattern regarding internet trolls: they are always loudly for the right to post harmful, hateful speech, and always loudly against the right of those they harm and hate, to speak in return.

    Which is to say, trolls aren’t pro-speech; they’re anti-responsibility, anti-consequences, and anti-justice.

  • Um, I would just like to say I don’t think this action counts as censorship. What this seems to be is one private site disallowing the posting of links or information from another site on their site. I think the fact that these are two private companies is important because this isn’t enforced by law. A government hasn’t come forward and given legal standing to this. You wouldn’t expect coke to post information about pepsi on their site would you? Is the information still available? Can you still access it? So, while I think Reddit made the error of not creating and enforcing reasonable community standards for it’s overall site I don’t think they are exactly off side if they don’t want to host certain content on their site (though they are now exposed as having at the very least very inconsistent policies). Is this censorship? I’m not entirely certain it is. I think a strong argument could be made that it isn’t.

    As the the content itself, I would tend to agree with Farfetch that one would have a pretty tricky time defending this content in court (though these days not much surprises). I think the larger concern is not that these pictures exist (as there are far darker corners of the web out there) but that it was permitted to remain on a site attempting to appear as professional a brand as Reddit. This speaks to something of the culture of the site that is in need of reform through dialogue.

  • tejanojim

    Okay, so one group of people (predominantly men) is taking photographs of other people (predominantly women) without their consent and then anonymously posing these photos online. Then still other people are digging up personal identification of the photographers without their consent and posting them online. And so the photographers are complaining that their… what? Privacy is being violated? Yeah, right – their whole activity revolves around violating the privacy of others, online. No sympathy for creepshots.

  • Kevin

    Your “Porn or not?” Ignite talk is somewhat relevant, too:

    It’ll be interesting to hear what you have to say on this story…

  • Farfetch

    None, it might need a US lawyer to make this clear but from my basic (and unqualified) reading of the law, what you stated “you do not have a legal expectation of privacy.” seems to be incorrect.

    The US Legal site defines protection from voyeurism (excluding celebs on the grounds they put themselves in the public eye) on the basis that:

    An otherwise non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one’s solitude or into one’s private affairs; b) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; c) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public; d) appropriation of one’s name or picture for personal or commercial advantage.

    They further note:

    The criminal voyeurism statute of some states cover “a place where [one] would have a reasonable expectation of privacy”, meaning:
    – A place where a reasonable person would believe that he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that his or her undressing was being photographed or filmed by another; or
    – A place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance.

    Given the similarity to voyeurism, a jury might find that placing a hidden camera in a certain location may amount to the torts of outrage or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

    Now I appreciate that people with cameras and camera phones may be impossible to stop from taking pictures on nude beaches, but an individual’s who is taking up their right to legally sunbathe in the nude does not somehow waive their rights to do so safe from someone taking pictures of them without their knowledge/consent and then publishing them online.

  • Paula

    I have a few words for the Photographers.

    My image belongs to me. What I show to you or public in private, at the mall, on the street, at the salon, etc are for you to see at that moment and that’s it. If you want to take a pic, ask and I’ll decide if I’ll allow you, or not, to retain that image outside of your memory. Specially since I will have no control on how you will use that image. Will it become stock photo? A creepshot? Used on a 6th grader science project?

    To me this is plain and simple. The same can be applied to paparazzi et al. My image may be displayed in public but that does not imply I’m giving someone else the right to use it. To me, this is not censorship but respect of personal boundaries. If one saw does not mean others have to. If you weren’t there to see, then it’s your loss. Unless that image is pivotal in presenting newsworthy material, a proof of a crime, etc. No, you do not have the right to take pictures of me and post them online without my consent.

    Not so few words, but that’s it. I hope this helps.

  • Matthew

    Exactly what “None” said. I don’t like that sub, but it’s not illegal. Upskirt shots are not allowed. Posting identifying information (ex: Here’s a hot chick bending over, and here’s her facebook account!) is also not allowed.

    When you think about it, reddit is merely trying to enforce a consistent rule of “Don’t out other people. period.” and I really don’t see the issue.

  • None

    I can’t support the closing of that subreddit, even if I don’t agree with the content. Censorship is censorship, and is just as bad no matter what is being censored. There can be no exceptions, either you censor or you do not.

    As for the content of the photos, up-skirt photos were expressly banned from being posted. If you’re in public and in some sort of compromising position or level of dress, expect it to end up on the internet — you do not have a legal expectation of privacy.

  • Farfetch

    I can’t see the logic in wanting to support the right to take picture of people without their knowledge, especially in a state of undress but then try and hide away your identity to prevent anyone knowing it’s you in your area, say, who was snapping the locals and uploading them. Then again, sites like Voyeur Web do it and even give prizes away for the best monthly shots.

    In the UK, the law is actually quite clear – voyeurism is a criminal offence and a recent case where a man filed women in the shower for personal use resulted in a 9 month jail sentence (with a guilty plea). Another case, where a man filmed himself with 5 lovers, again for his personal enjoyment, resulted in 8 months jail + his name was put on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

    I have no problem with people being exhibitionist, nor do I assume a topless or nude woman on the beach wants to be stared at, but I do think when people are taking photos or videos in scenarios like this, permission to use the images, especially in the public domain should always be gathered first (but then does that make the actions of the paparazzi a crime and is that a whole new can of worms if someone is making money from the shoots?)

  • Peter

    Whoops, disregard the previous comment. I should’ve read the posts after that before commenting :)

  • Peter

    “…..with the caveat that I am still wrecking shit in Malaysia……”

    Wha? What are you up to in Malaysia, Violet?

  • Josh

    There might be an interesting discussion to be had here…lots of those legal balances (imagine the gold ones, but loaded with hot people, because hey, you’re imagining, might as well enjoy it.)

    Censorship is bad. But taking, um, intimate photos of someone without their consent is also bad; should perhaps be considered a form of assault. Granted, if you’re showing something in public, you’re expressing a certain implied consent. But that implied consent is not explicit, and cannot reasonably be extended from “I’m ok showing x on this street, (potentially away from family, colleagues…)” to “go ahead and post my hoohah on the internet.” Please. Moreover, lots of these pictures are of unintentionally exposed subjects, without intent there can be no implied consent.

    So “should we censor this crap” is a kinda tricky one…but that’s not the issue here. The issue here is “should these photographers/posters/creepers be outed?” Or, if you will, EXPOSED. Unlike their models, the creepers have expressed a very strong implication that exposure on the internet is a good thing. Hell yes we should help them out.

    Censorship is a big scary stick to use against this sort of transgression…it’s got a built in slippery slope that will probably cause lots of collateral damage. I’d personally rather not bust it out. Other legal avenues might be ok, but have their own problems. Outing seems about right. Your right to speech I will unhappily defend, cretin, but your right to anonymity? Not anywhere near as important. Probably why it’s not on top of the bill of rights.

    I’m extremely disappointed in Reddit for banning Gawker links. What do y’all think, are they ok with hypocrisy, or just too stupid to see hypocrisy in defending some sort of speech right with censorship?