Reddit, referred to as the “front page of the Internet,” hosts more than two million user-created “communities” covering nearly as many topics. Unfortunately, among these “subreddits” are countless sexually explicit images and videos posted without consent (image-based sexual abuse), child sexual abuse material (child pornography), hardcore pornography, prostitution, and the likely facilitation of sex trafficking.
Not only does Reddit turn a blind eye to illegal and harmful content on its site, survivor requests to remove images of their abuse go unanswered. Instead of prioritizing people’s safety and well-being, Reddit is focused more on profits by going public, aiming for valuation of over $15 billion while continuing to ignore the myriad forms of exploitation that prop up its value.
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Reddit fails to institute strong policies and practices to prevent harms.
The Reddit User agreement says nothing about sexually explicit or “adult content” — allowing it to flourish without any meaningful age or consent verification.
Reddit has been under media scrutiny several times for hosting image-based sexual abuse, including this past December when Cosmopolitan exposed the Nude Traders Club: men sharing their wives and girlfriends nude images.
Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) is a broad term encompassing a range of harmful experiences that weaponize sexually explicit or sexualized materials against the persons they depict. IBSA includes the creation, theft, extortion, threatened or actual distribution, or any use of sexually explicit or sexualized materials without the meaningful consent of the person or persons depicted and/or for purposes of sexual exploitation.
Often, such materials are used for sextortion or advertise for prostitution, including sex trafficking victims.
On paper, Reddit does prohibit “sexual or suggestive content involving minors,” and “involuntary pornography” but it fails to proactively and consistently enforce this rule.
And despite having an estimated net worth of $2 billion, Reddit refuses to spend the necessary resources on a sufficient number of moderators and readily-available technology solutions.
In addition, Reddit does not have advanced parental controls—relying only on privacy settings that take multiple, convoluted, steps to restrict the visibility of “adult content.” Yet a child is not locked into these settings and can easily log out of the account in order to view explicit content. Further, adults are able to easily contact and groom minors because anyone with an account can message other users and comment on their posts without restriction. (Learn more here.)
Further, Reddit appears to ignore survivors of sexual exploitation who ask for non-consensual materials to be removed.
In 2020, NCOSE assisted a survivor who was a minor at the time of her sexual abuse and had scores of abuse images uploaded and disseminated on the Internet. These images are Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) (also known as child pornography) which is contraband meaning, it is illegal under federal law to house, possess, or distribute it, including on the Internet. One of the websites the CSAM was uploaded to was Reddit. There were at least 28 unique URLs depicting this minor survivor’s abuse on Reddit. On December 18, 2020, NCOSE’s Law Center sent a takedown request on behalf of the survivor to Reddit’s CEO, Reddit’s Legal Department, as well as Reddit’s information, contact, and help desk email addresses. Several months later, our lawyers still had not received a response or acknowledgement from Reddit despite being informed of the very serious federal crimes occurring on their website.
Eventually, NCOSE received a notice from Reddit stating that they no longer monitored [email protected] or [email protected], which then prompted us to fill out a Customer Support Ticket on their website. After a convoluted process, our legal team submitted the ticket once again explaining the very serious exploitation and abuse of the survivor and the federal crimes occurring on their website. Our legal team received an automated email stating that Reddit would look into our situation and investigate further if any action was necessary. 14 months after the initial takedown request, we still do not have confirmation that the content has successfully been removed.
Reddit can become part of the solution by: