The rampant sharing and selling of explicit and sexually-charged photos of women, posted and traded without their consent via Reddit, has been highlighted by a new BBC investigation.
The investigation found that at least tens of thousands of people take part in what is known as ‘collector culture’ sharing of nude and sexual images posted without consent on the site. Many of the pictures have been accompanied by the personal details of the women depicted, leading to the women receiving rape and blackmail threats through their social media accounts.
Some subreddits dedicated to this shady practice of sharing and selling photos were found to have over 20,000 users, with one containing over 15,000 images of women.
Some women, alerted about intimate photos of themselves being shared without their consent via Reddit, said that the site didn’t remove the pictures when they complained, or took months to do so. One woman whose photos appeared on Reddit without her consent said she attempted to commit suicide.
Sharing explicit intimate images of someone in an attempt to cause them distress, aka ‘revenge porn’, is illegal in the UK. However, if the person posting such images does so without intent to cause distress to the person depicted, the act is not illegal.
Reddit allows nudity and sexually explicit material on the platform if it is flagged as NSFW. The site has a policy of banning images such as these if they are posted without the consent of those shown in them.
Reddit told the BBC that it took the issue of this problem, dubbed ‘collector culture’, “extremely seriously”. The site’s bosses told the broadcaster that in 2021 it removed 88,000 non-consensual sexual images, and that it uses automated tools plus human staff to find and remove them.
It was found that after being banned from Reddit, moderators of subreddits dedicated to trading nude photos had quickly reappeared on the site under profile names similar to their banned monikers.
The phone numbers, addresses and social media information of many of the women depicted in the pictures were also shared online. This led to many of them receiving threatening, often sexually explicit messages from men who had seen their photos on Reddit.
“We know we have more work to do to prevent, detect, and action this content even more quickly and accurately, and we are investing now in our teams, tools, and processes to achieve this goal,” Reddit said.