The Internet War Over Creeps on Reddit

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One would think the side to take in the Gawker-versus-child-pornography-on-Reddit war would be an easy choice, but Gawker writer Adrien Chen's ban from the site has led to an Internet divide over the matter. A number of Reddit site moderators, for example (and maybe obviously), have rallied behind Violentacraz, who managed Reddit's "jailbait" section, which eventually got shut down because of a photo of a 14-year-old performing oral sex. In addition to the original list of subreddits seeking to erase Gawker media from their threads, the subreddit r/BanGawker, which posted a plea to ban Gawker links, has convinced a total of 28 threads to block all Gawker sites because of Chen's supposed threat to identify Violentacraz in a blog post. (It's worth noting that Reddit the site did not ban Gawker.) "Moderators are free to moderate their subreddits as they see fit," Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin told Betabeat's Jessica Roy. "They can ban all usernames that start with the letter g if they want.") This has escalated to far more than a Reddit-versus-Chen brawl, with Reddit attempting to protect its users' anonymity (and right to post inappropriate pics) and the rest of the Internet trying to protect themselves from those users. 

Chen isn't the only one attempting to expose the people behind the inappropriate stuff that gets posted on Reddit. In an attempt to take down the subreddit r/CreepShots—where Redditors post photos of women (often in bikinis) without their permission—a female Reddit user started the Tumblr Predditors. Similar to Chen's possible outing of Violentacraz, the site attempts to provide accountability, matching real-life human identities to Reddit handles, outing "sexual predators that use Reddit." The site has worked, to an extent, getting r/CreepShots taken down because of a supposed personal threat to one of its moderators following a post written by Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel (another Gawker media site) about Predditors. 

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As relentless anonymous Internet users, Redditors, however, believe they have a right to their creeps and their kiddie porn, even if they probably wouldn't do what they're doing if everyone knew their identity. The photos are legal, Reddit's moderators argue. "When you are in public, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. We kindly ask women to respect our right to admire your bodies and stop complaining," explained the r/CreepShots subreddit. But, the legal implications actually aren't so clear. Because of Predditors police are now pursuing a Redditor for taking photos of his students and posting them online, wrote Baker. As for the jailbait section, one legal expert said he found nothing illegal on it, Jeffrey Toobin told Anderson Cooper on CNN. But another called the photos of scantily clad kids "borderline." With no clear-cut illegality, people believe they have a right to post these unsavory photos, and instead of just stopping, they have created a CreepShots part deux, r/CreepSquad, as you can see to the right. There, CreepSquad posters are urged, "Please stay safe. When posting here, we strongly suggest that you use an alternative account or, at the very least, delete personally identifiable information about you that you may have posted in your comments," explains moderator POTATO_IN_MY_ANUS

But this isn't just about the law. "Will Redditors want to take photos of unsuspecting girls and women if they know they might actually face IRL repercussions, regardless of whether they've committed a criminal offense?" wondered Baker. Apparently not, which is why we have seen such a strong reaction from the Reddit community following Chen's supposed threat. 

Unable to stand up to Baker's assertion, Redditors have instead resorted to the following plea: "Please don't take reddit outside of reddit." This "what happens on Reddit stays on Reddit" philosophy suggests Redditors believe their postings aren't subject to the laws of Webland. As The Awl's Choire Sicha so eloquently explains, that's not how the Internet works. Reddit users probably shouldn't post things if they're uncomfortable with someone doing a little Google sleuthing. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.