The subreddit /r/TheFappening (Fap being common redditor slang for masturbation) came to the attention of the media as moderators kept an archive of the leaked photos and even provided updates as new photos were uploaded and released into the digital wilds.
So where is all this moral relativism?
While there was a great hue and cry over the privacy/hacking issue, that’s not what caused Reddit to act. According to Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, they began acting to take down photos once they started receiving Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests. Wong doesn’t mention the very real child pornography charges they could have been facing since the photos of Olympic athlete McKayla Maroney were taken when she was under 18.
So, really, the reason some photos were taken down initially had nothing to do with the morality of allowing stolen, nude photos to be hosted, but everything to do with fear of child porn charges and lawsuits over copyright infringement.
Eventually /r/TheFappening was banned as a subreddit, but it wasn’t because Reddit was taking the moral high ground. When the site posted a fairly lengthy blog post explaining the reason for the banning, it wasn’t to appease the throngs of people outraged by the stolen photos, but to appease the outraged redditors who felt their free speech was being stifled.
Reddit CEO Wong blogged as well, with a post entitled, “Every Man is Responsible for His Own Soul.” In it he, out of one side of his mouth, decried the hacking and leaking of the photos and then, out of the other side, said Reddit would do nothing about it since it’s not their role as government of this ‘digital community’ to legislate morality:
“You choose what to post. You choose what to read. You choose what kind of subreddit to create and what kind of rules you will enforce. We will try not to interfere - not because we don’t care, but because we care that you make your choices between right and wrong.
You can’t buy redemption
Apparently, not everyone feels that way. Case in point, the charities that /r/TheFappening tried to donate to – as a way of expunging the negative karma they accrued violating the privacy of these celebrities – weren’t all that interested in a wad of fapper cash.
Initially, /r/TheFappening tried donating to prostate cancer research. In about two hours, the donations reached close to $6,000. And that’s when the charity pulled the plug and refunded the donations.
Not to be deterred, the horny yet repentant redditors tried changing the donations to Water.org, which lasted about two hours before it too was shut down.
A pretty clear signal that morality does matter to some.
What the redditors in this case are seeing is that taking part in an ‘anonymous’ forum and engaging in questionable practices and activities CAN have consequences. It is not about moral relativism, it is about right and wrong. Stealing is wrong, even when it is only images. And for those found with the photos of Maroney those consequences can be life altering.
And in what is an extremely amusing case of karmic payback, redditor Johnsmcjohn (the moderator of /r/TheFappening) complained that the media violated his privacy in a Washington Post article.
Ah, the irony.