Last year, we missed a chance to be a leader in social media when it comes to protecting your privacy -- something we’ve cared deeply about since reddit’s inception. At our recent all hands company meeting, this was something that we all, as a company, decided we needed to address.
The statement added that the frequency of takedowns will be disclosed in Reddit's annual privacy report, but that's about as far as the site has gone in explaining how the new policy will be implemented. There’s no doubt the change is a huge victory, and likely a major step forward, for advocates of “revenge porn” victims and for anyone at risk of having sensitive images posted online without consent. It follows a trend of social media platforms recognizing different forms of online harassment, admitting their own complicity in allowing it and trying to step up their game.
But there are a lot of questions still to be answered about what Reddit’s new policy will actually do, and whether it will go far enough. First and foremost, there’s the issue of consent. Reddit’s new policy stipulates that “a link to a photograph, video or digital image” of someone “in a state of nudity or engaged in any act of sexual conduct,” which the subject believes was submitted to the site without permission, is prohibited — but what sort of permission needs to be granted? It’s the same question we have so much trouble grappling with when it comes to affirmative consent and sexual assault on college campuses, to use one example, and one that warrants more discussion — as well as, perhaps, a straightforward definition from Reddit.
And, while the updates could prevent Reddit from becoming another outlet for massive privacy violations, the move seems reactive in a way that overlooks other forms of harassment on the platform. The focus on nudity and sexual conduct would imply the policy doesn’t cover “upskirt” photos or other “creepshots” both taken and posted without consent. Legally, these images are often not considered pornographic, and likely wouldn’t fall under Reddit’s “involuntary pornography” heading. But they are violating and nonconsensual, and they have quite a following. Reddit has made moves to address creepshots before, but how they factor into the new policy is unclear.
Again, none of this is to say Reddit isn’t taking a step in the right direction. Identifying specific problems (the entirety of the Fappening) and formulating solutions (banning nude photos posted without consent) should be integral to the process of running a social media platform. That much is obvious. But these changes can and should be made transparently, with guides to implementation and clear standards for consent. The definitions here are what’s tricky in the first place, in real life and online. Failing to acknowledge the ongoing dialogue about consent keeps us from contemplating the ownership not only of sensitive content, but of people’s bodies and sexuality IRL.
What we're hoping to do with yesterday's announcement is help lead the way for privacy in the digital age by doing what we can to protect individuals on reddit. We will be removing content that violates our new policies on reddit as it is reported to our team by members of the community. By putting these steps in place to protect our users, we aim to continue to grow as a platform that offers a safe space for people to be themselves without infringing upon the rights of others.