When leaked, nude photos of female celebrities turned up on Reddit, the site hemmed and hawed for weeks as cease and desist orders piled up. The photos stayed up; millions of people clicked, downloaded. The sub-Reddit devoted to the images of celebrities (grossly named TheFappening) stayed up for weeks with the sole purpose of sharing photos of women's bodies and commenting on them.
When photos of vulnerable women turned up online, Reddit moved slowly. Not with this week's Sony hack. When it's a powerful company whose privacy hackers violate, the website apparently can move swiftly. Within 24 hours, Reddit has deleted posts, blocked users, and banned a subReddit related to the hack.
It's true that Sony does have more legal weight behind it than Jennifer Lawrence would when demanding that hacked material come down. But Reddit's actions in these two situations — one where it moved quickly, and another where the company dragged its feet — do make one thing unbearably clear: Reddit is a site that values a corporation more than it values women.
Sony's got its leaked materials down in one day
Sony has more resources — and more legal precedent — to challenge hacked materials when they leak into the public domain.
As a major corporation, the entertainment company no doubt has a more robust legal team that can send takedown notices than any single celebrity ever would.
The company can lean on case law, too. The American Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law passed in 1998, protects personal information, and could easily have been used by Sony to sue Reddit had it failed to take action against the material on the site. The Guardian reported that this Act was mentioned in Sony's letters to Reddit. Women can also use the DMCA to combat stolen photos, but the law does not provide a strict enough time frame to keep the photos from disseminating. And because women have less clout than a large company, sites are slow to comply.
Sony asked Reddit to take down leaked materials on December 15, 2014. Reddit complied the next day when Reddit executives told James Cook at Business Insider that "discussions and news stories" would still be allowed on the site but that the actual files from the hacking would be removed.
Getting nude photos down took a full week
Reddit moved quickly for Sony — and slowly for hacked female celebrities.
Those photos first appeared on Reddit on September 1. It was a full week before Reddit banned the subreddit they existed on, and by then, the photos were everywhere.
To get a nude photo removed from the internet requires a victim to jump through several hoops. First, a woman must hold the copyright to the photo (so either she needs to have taken it, or apply for the copyright.) Only once she proves she has that copyright can she ask individual sites to remove the image. But that doesn't guarantee that they will do it in a timely manner, and it certainly doesn't keep that image from circulating around the internet.
Reddit executives, most likely, removed Sony's information because it reeked of legal troubles for the company that they didn't want to deal with. By quickly removing the Sony files, Reddit is preaching that words matter. Ethics matter. Trust matters. That is, so long as those ethics and words and trust protect large corporations and their interests.
Women, however, and their concerns and their personal invasion, don't hold the same clout. Women, Reddit is saying with this decision, do not matter — at least not as much as an entertainment company does.