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The swift change in policy came after the emergence of a new section on the social news site called r/preteen_girls.
After months of controversy, Reddit has finally banned the posting of suggestive or sexually exploitative images of children.
The social news site—still reeling from the r/jailbait teen-pics controversy last year—came under fire again on Sunday for a section of the site called r/preteen_girls, where users posted photographs of underage girls.
Within hours administrators shut down the section and announced a major policy change on the company blog that said “suggestive or sexual content featuring minors” is now explicitly banned from the site.
The move was swift. The outcry had reached a crescendo around mid-afternoon Sunday, as threads denouncing r/preteen_girls began popping up across the site. By 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Reddit had banned the section.
Redditors who clicked through before the ban said the section contained links to photographs of underage girls who were fully or partially clothed. Redditor smooshie described the images as follows:
“A mix of photos from creeps lurking around on Facebook, from the seedier corners of the Internet, and a few tamer photos that could be seen in /r/pics. It might not be illegal, but it sure as hell is disturbing”
Sections of Reddit, called subreddits, are user-created and -moderated.
The site has always maintained an idealistic notion of absolute free-speech. Its creators and staff have seen it as a free and open platform, where the proliferation of (legal) content is left to the will of its users. But r/preteen_girls, r/jailbait, and their ilk posed a clear challenge to Reddit’s ideals—not the least of which because the photographs inhabited a legal gray area, often straddling a thin line between innocent photographs of minors and an atrocious crime.
The subreddits also smeared the reputation of the site and its millions of users. That will clearly no longer be the case.
“Freedom of speech is a good thing,” redditor 2girls1jason wrote in reply to the blog post. “Common sense, tact and dignity is even better. Bravo admins. Long overdue.”
The blog post concluded:
“We will tirelessly defend the right to freely share information on reddit in any way we can, even if it is offensive or discusses something that may be illegal. However, child pornography is a toxic and unique case for Internet communities, and we’re protecting reddit’s ability to operate by removing this threat. We remain committed to protecting reddit as an open platform.”
Photo by g-chat
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.