Two months ago, Dave* and a female friend were waiting at a dealership to pick up his car after getting some work done.
Bored, the two—who are both redditors—had an idea to snag some quick Reddit karma, the “Internet points” users earn for posting popular content on the social site.
Dave told his friend about r/girlsinyogapants, a section, or subreddit, for sharing photos of women—often without their consent. According to Dave, she agreed to let him take her picture, while she posed as if she were unaware.
As the two expected, the photo was a hit among the subreddit’s oglers, making it onto r/girlsinyogapants’ front page of content. Other members encouraged Dave to post the photo to r/creepshots, another section on Reddit for sharing photos of unsuspecting women. He posted the photo there, too.
That was two months ago, before r/creepshots became the focus of an online controversy when a high school teacher was fired for posting upskirt photos of two of his students on the subreddit. With a media firestorm swirling around r/creepshots, its moderators made it private, and Reddit eventually shut it down entirely.
Today, the photo Dave posted has all but ruined his reputation. He is one of the r/creepshots participants outed by Predditors, a Tumblr that exposes alleged “sexual predators” on Reddit.
Dave’s personal information is now on Tumblr for everyone to see. He’s spent the past week deleting social-networking accounts, receiving hate mail, and getting a lawyer—all because, he claims, a blogger mistook a consensual photo for sexual harassment.
“This whole situation has been a nightmare,” he told the Daily Dot. “The worst part of it all [is that] the picture is of a friend of mine who posed in a grand scheme to get some worthless karma.”
Samantha*, the woman behind the Predditors site, told Jezebel she wants nothing more than to give redditors who post “creepshots” a taste of their own medicine. Because much of their information is out in the open anyway, she isn’t doxing them—revealing personal details that aren’t readily available online—she’s just putting a spotlight on their ages, locations, and social networking profiles for anybody who might want to send hate mail.
Tumblr briefly took Predditors down earlier this month for terms-of-service violations but reinstated it after discovering that the blog only revealed “publicly available” information.
“We find it incredibly ironic that that these men fear exposure,” Samantha told the Daily Dot. “We don't see this as punishment more than a warning to the people around these men. If they suffer consequences from being exposed, that's their own doing.”
Samantha has good reason to believe that at least one of the 38 men she’s exposed is a repeat poster of creepshots. After receiving an email from one outed man proclaiming his innocence, she found even more dirt on him.
“We find the guys who play dumb the best since we go back and dig up more proof, and then don't hear back from them,” she said. “The last guy who did this we found to be spreading around his naked voyeur shots of his fiancée without her consent.”
Samantha said she’s certain that the men who end up on Predditors are guilty.
“We all make sure we're 100% certain before posting the information and show how we came to that conclusion in the Tumblr posts. We've been collecting information on hundreds of other users but haven't been able to verify it so it doesn't get published. Most people online use a handle that's more unique than their real name.”
That’s news to Sean*, another man featured on Predditors, who told the Daily Dot that he doesn’t even have a Reddit account. He does, however, have an account on Valve’s Steam gaming service with the same handle as a redditor who posted photos to r/creepshots.
“I don’t even use Reddit,” Sean told the Daily Dot. “My steam account uses [the Redditor’s handle], apparently this was enough for them to crucify me as the OP [original poster] of the Reddit pics?!”
Sean has a very common last name, which is also part of his username on Steam. Although he does live in the same major city as the r/creepshots poster, he says that’s just a coincidence.
He was unable to verify that he is not the redditor in question, saying, “I would think the onus is on the Predditors people to prove it IS me.”
“In my line of work I wouldn't be so stupid as to use the same name for a profile like that,” he added.
Now Sean claims he’s facing various forms of online harassment.
“Got all this guy’s details. Forwarded it on to the police. I have no idea what he posted to creepshots, but other things about him have me worried,” one concerned Tumblr user wrote on Predditors.
But Sean believes he’s in the clear.
“Sure a few people claimed they reported me to my 'work' or the 'police' but given no one knew who I worked for and that the photos I saw posted by [redacted] on reddit werent even vaguely jailbaity or upskirt I’m not too worried at this point,” wrote Sean to the Daily Dot.
Aaron* is a third man who has had his personal information thrust into the public eye after being featured on Predditors. He admits to posting a single image of a woman in skin-tight yoga pants that he found on another site, but he denies Predditors’ accusations that he took the creepshot himself.
“I was falsely accused,” he wrote to the Daily Dot. “I have never been in a classroom at [redacted]. I found the pic online and posted it. That was the first time I have posted a picture of that nature. Had I had known I would have gotten so much flak from it, I would have never posted.”
A cancer survivor, Aaron says he deals with insults from strangers now every time he logs on to Twitter or Facebook. He feels guilty for posting the photo, but he doesn’t feel the punishment fits the crime.
“This was my fault,” he said. “I posted too much personal information. I just don’t like being grouped into the same pool as pedophiles and people that use the Internet to abuse people.”
Both Dave and Aaron say they are seeking legal recourse, which is part of the reason the two didn’t share their last names with the Daily Dot. While Aaron is upset about being labeled a sex offender, Dave has the same problem with Predditors that Samantha has with r/creepshots.
“I completely support Internet freedom, including what Predditors is doing, but when you wander in the territory of using people’s image without consent and posting personal information it becomes super gray,” he said.
Roy Gutterman, a professor of communications law at the Tully Center for Free Speech at the S.I. Newhouse School for Public Communications, agrees that the case of Predditors is a complex one, involving some “fascinating, untested legal principles.”
If one of the men featured on Predditors is “being branded in a way that turns out to be false,” a case for defamation could be made, Gutterman said.
And although there’s no legal definition for the term “sexual predator,” some U.S. states apply that designation to anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense against a minor.
“I wouldn’t want to be called a sexual predator,” Gutterman said, “That’s libel per se.”
If the creators of the Predditors blog are sued, the burden will likely be on them to prove that their accusations are true, not libelous.
“I am not sure how these people can confirm or deny anything, these vigilantes,” Gutterman said. “100 percent verifiable? I’m not sure if that’s good enough. If you are accusing people of crimes or misbehavior and disseminating that to an audience, you have an obligation to make sure you are publishing the truth.”
Samantha, however, isn’t worried about that prospect. “We talked to a lawyer, and he laughed,” she told the Daily Dot.
“The most their lawyers can do is send us a strongly worded letter or try to get Tumblr to shut us down. No judge would entertain a case like that.”
*Names in this story have been changed.
Photo by Warren In The Weeds/Flickr