Did a raid from one of the oldest and most influential Web forums bring down reddit’s controversial teen pics section r/jailbait?

That was the sensational claim last night on the social news site, where hundreds of redditors pontificated on the possibility that SomethingAwful—the people who brought you Jeff K, Photoshop Phridays, and the Weekend Web—intentionally took down r/jailbait.

Specifically, the headline read: “Remember that Jailbait thread with users begging for [child pornography] that eventually got the subreddit shut down? Turns out it was a SomethingAwful Goon raid...”

The implication: members of SomethingAwful’s forums, who call themselves “goons,” seeded the 20,000-reader r/jailbait with requests for child pornography.

If true, it would mean an old and relatively small web community had single-handedly taken down a highly trafficked section at one of the top 100 most-visted websites in the United States.

The section, which featured sexualized images of teenage girls, had recently come under intense scrutiny from both within Reddit and from influential members of the media, including Gawker’s Adrian Chen and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“Only the most gullible redditors thought that actual JB subscribers were involved,” r/jailbait’s creator and top moderator violentacrez wrote in the thread. Regular r/jailbait readers, he seemed to imply, would never be foolish enough to publicly request child pornography.

Many redditors were sucked into the editorialized headline, but didn’t look much deeper.

“See that, people?” wrote redditor WarPhalange. “That is trolling. Your friend drawing a mustache on your CD-case? That's called a ‘prank’ or a ‘joke.’ Getting one of the busiest parts of a website shut-down because of manufactured perverseness? That's gold.”

But a cursory scan of the SomethingAwful forums shows simply no evidence SomethingAwful launched a raid. There was no “manufactured perverseness” in r/jailbait—just perverseness, plain and simple, in a place you’d rather expect it.

What did happen: SomethingAwful forum regulars really don’t like r/jailbait, and they really don’t seem to like Reddit very much, either. So they launched a massive media campaign earlier this month, peppering news outlets with scandalous information and screenshots from r/jailbait. It’s unclear what influence they had on the increased media coverage of r/jailbait.

After Reddit staff banned the controversial section Monday, forum regulars declared “victory.” And, why not? Something they had ardently campaigned against and called “a playground for pedos” had finally met its demise.

But forum members never suggested in the threads that members individually or en masse attack r/jailbait itself.

Earlier this week, redditor chorn74 looked at the account histories of everyone who allegedly requested child porn on the now infamous r/jailbait thread.

Many held accounts less than a month old, but many more had accounts older than six months. That hardly suggests some kind of targeted raid using temporary throwaway accounts.

“To the mind of a redditor it actually seems more likely that goons pulled off a masonic level conspiracy with no mention of it in this thread,” wrote  SomethingAwful forum member King Carnivore, “than it is that disgusting pervy dudes that jerk off to pictures of clothed children actually asked for pictures of a naked child.”

Reddit staff have yet to make an official statement about the subreddit’s closure.

As we reported earlier this week, some redditors used the subreddit as a launching pad for allegedly exchanging child pornography on Monday. Within hours Reddit staff had banned the section, giving only one reason: “This subreddit has been shut down due to threatening the structural integrity of the greater reddit community.”

Shutting down r/jailbait will have little practical effect on the spread of this images, however, which are mostly lifted from teenagers’ Facebook profiles.

Dozens of similar teen pics sections still exist on the site, and the images are hosted elsewhere, mostly on free-image hosting service Imgur.

When we asked Imgur founder Alan Schaaf earlier this week if he planned to remove the images, he declined to comment.

Few people, however, seem interested in holding Imgur’s feet to the fire.

Photo by The U.S. Army