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A new Reddit policy, announced Wednesday, bans all porn posted without the subjects’ permission, including fake celebrity porn. The decision was spurred by the rise of “deepfakes,” a new kind of machine-learning-powered porn video where celebrities’ faces are seamlessly pasted onto the bodies of porn performers.
“Reddit prohibits the dissemination of images or video depicting any person in a state of nudity or engaged in any act of sexual conduct apparently created or posted without their permission, including depictions that have been faked,” Reddit’s updated rules proclaim. “Additionally, do not post images or video of another person for the specific purpose of faking explicit content or soliciting ‘lookalike’ pornography.”
The web’s biggest deepfakes hub, r/deepfakes, has been shut down. It had 90,000 subscribers. Related subreddits, including one where users were offering to buy and sell custom fake porn videos, have also been shut down.
Along with the AI-assisted video porn, the new rule also cleansed Reddit of old-fashioned, Photoshopped celebrity nudes. The biggest Reddit forum dedicated to fake nudes of famous women, r/celebfakes, had been around for more than seven years before it was shut down this week. It had more than 50,000 subscribers.
To Reddit’s credit, though, the site acted more quickly on deepfakes than it has on other problematic sexual content in the past. The site’s most notorious scandal involved “creepshots,” candid photos of women, including upskirts, snapped in public without their knowledge. Reddit was slow to act on creepshots, only taking decisive action after the website Gawker unmasked the site’s biggest creepshots moderator, ViolentAcrez.
Today’s rule change, under the headline “Do Not Post Involuntary Pornography,” reiterates the ban on creepshots.
“Images or video of intimate parts of a person’s body, even if the person is clothed or in public, are also not allowed if apparently created or posted without their permission and contextualized in a salacious manner (e.g., “creepshots” or “upskirt” imagery),” it reads.
Before today’s rule change, Reddit was the website most closely associated with “deepfakes” porn. It was a redditor who created “FakeApp,” the desktop software that lets anyone with a nice graphics card and some high-quality photos make realistic celebrity porn videos. He chose Reddit as his venue for making the app public.
While some redditors made an attempt to separate the technology behind deepfakes from the content—and that group will certainly be upset about the demise of the deepfakes subreddit—the app was mostly being used to produce porn.
Reddit has been fairly successful in finding and closing copycat subreddits after a banning. We’ve seen this with both creepshots and hate subreddits like r/n****rs and r/fatpeoplehate. And studies have shown that these bans work. Hate speech on Reddit dropped significantly after those specific harassment forums were banned. If history is any indication, this crackdown on fake porn means the deepfakes porn community will move on to a different website.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.