On Saturday, Reddit took down r/TheFappening, a page where people had been sharing nude celebrity photos that were hacked and released last week.
Saturday evening on another Reddit page, johnsmcjohn answered questions about r/TheFappening being banned.
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 said he created r/TheFappening after using r/Celebs, another Reddit page devoted to celebrities. His newly-created page 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, CEO Yishan Wong explained the reasons for taking down r/TheFappening.
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."
Read the full statement here.
While the photo leaks themselves have been widely condemned, some criticized Reddit for singling out r/TheFappening while leaving other explicit pages up.
Many Reddit users raised similar concerns, while others accused the company of caving to media and legal pressure. Wong responded by saying "we don't ban subreddits for being morally bad."
When Wong was asked about Reddit pages that show explicit photos of dead women and 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.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.