cooper

In his latest “Keeping Them Honest” segment, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper tackled r/jailbait, Reddit’s controversial teen pics section.

Anderson Cooper has “discovered” Reddit’s controversial teen pics section, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

The CNN anchor took his outrage to the air Thursday night in his “Keeping Them Honest” segment.

The section Cooper was attacking, r/jailbait, features sexually suggestive pictures of teenage girls, most of whom appear to be under the age of 18. The girls are all fully clothed.

“Reddit is totally uninterested in stopping them,” Cooper says in the segment, referring to the posters in r/jailbait.

Cooper notes that the site has a long list of rules for its users, and yet, those rules do not prohibit posting photos if the subject has not given his/her permission. (The photographs are actually only linked-to from Reddit — the majority are hosted on another site, Imgur.com.)

“I assumed that it was just, you know, run from some site run in Eastern Europe or .. some guy living in his mom’s house, doing this out of his basement,” Cooper says. “But … it’s pretty amazing that a big corporation would have something like this, which reflects pretty badly on it.”

Interestingly enough, Nuts Magazine, a subsidiary of Time Warner, which owns CNN, is currently running a photo gallery called “Real Girls Strip At Home: Sexy Self-Posed Pictures” and another called “Cameraphone Cuties” (links NSFW).

And that’s part of what makes Cooper’s outrage seem misplaced. In the same segment, another CNN commenter, Sunny Hostin, says Reddit’s staff is “cowardly” for “hiding behind free speech” — a bizarre claim to make for any member of the news media, who are explicitly protected by the first amendment.

Let’s be clear here. Posting links to images of scantily clad teenagers without their permission is morally dubious. However, as CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin himself says in the segment, the pictures in r/jailbait appear to be fully legal.

The idea that free speech can be selectively applied is antithetical to the whole purpose of the first amendment.

In a long line of rulings throughout U.S. history, the Supreme Court has protected the most heinous types of free speech, the idea being that we gain much more as a society by protecting all types of speech than we do by banning only what makes us uncomfortable.

Cooper is right to point out the apparent hypocrisy of Reddit. The site does have rules for its users but none that ban objectionable content.

If Reddit begins censoring user content, however, it would go against the core philosophy of the website and a huge portion of its user base (see the outrage at the CNN report on this Reddit thread, for example).

The rules Reddit does have exist to guide redditors’ conduct towards one another on the site, not the content they create or link to.

Meanwhile, the site is protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, despite Toobin’s claim to the contrary in the segment. This gives Reddit immunity from any lawsuits that may arise from content produced by its users.

But that’s besides the point. The outrage here is misplaced. This is 2011. Banning legal content from one website is like plugging a single hole in a sieve. It’s useless in any practical sense. (Where is the anger at Facebook, where many of the images originated, for instance, or Imgur.com, where most of the images are hosted?)

If Cooper is legitimately offended by the content of r/jailbait, he should take his complaints to the people who can do something about the problem: legislators.

Photo by mroach

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.