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Reddit Bans Celebrity Photo Forums After a Week of "Whack-a-Mole"

No changes to existing content policies are expected.

Six days after stolen naked photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were posted online, Reddit has now banned the forums that help spread images on its site.

The company was careful to say that, even after some delay, it was not changing its policies but rather enforcing existing ones.

CEO Yishan Wong said in a blog post that Reddit thinks of itself as “the government of a new type of community” rather than a company running a website.

Wong explained that Reddit does not want to impinge on free speech in order to compel good behavior, but instead expects individuals to bear responsibility for their own behavior and morality.

At the same time, the company has now banned forums including “The Fappening” that had been created to post and repost the images, which were collected through celebrities’ Apple iCloud backups through unknown means.

Reddit community manager “sporkicide,” a.k.a. Lisa Liebig, explained in a comment thread that the company ultimately banned the image forums because of continued reposting of images — including underage photos — that had been taken down after DMCA claims, sometimes with links to pay-per-click sites and malware.

“We understand that the moderators did the best they could with the situation at hand, but having users purposefully try and circumvent the takedowns was starting to become a whack-a-mole game,” Liebig said, adding, “These factors led us to decide that the subreddit and many of its sister-subreddits were in violation of rule five of the site, ‘don’t…do anything that interferes with normal use of the site.'”

Wong acknowledged that while it is not illegal for Reddit to link to stolen materials, the site played a part in its users’ efforts to promote and distribute the links.

But, he said, “we are unlikely to make changes to our existing site content policies in response to this specific event.”

Reddit is owned by Advance Publications, which also owns Vogue publisher Condé Nast.

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