Reddit bans group that posted hacked celebrity nude photos

Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the Oscars held at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

Jason Merritt, Getty Images

The Internet community site Reddit, designed for sharing photos, links, and uncensored discussions, is trying to turn off the spigot that has been blasting its site with illegally obtained photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. It is banning one of its groups, "TheFappening."

The photos were obtained by hackers, primarily by breaking into the iCloud accounts of about 100 celebrities. Reddit said in an announcement posted on its site this weekend: "When the photos went out, they inevitably got linked to on reddit," many through TheFappening. "As more people became aware of them, we started getting a huge amount of traffic, which broke the site in several ways." Reddit complied with requests to take down the photos by taking down images that were posted to its site or directing requesters to the places actually hosting the photos.

When Reddit became aware that some of the photos depicted minors, they reacted even more vigorously: "[W]e have drawn a clear line in the sand. In response we immediately started removing things on reddit which we found to be linking to those pictures, and also recommended that the image hosts be contacted so they could be removed more permanently. We do not allow links on reddit to child pornography or images which sexualize children... Our general stance on this stuff is that reddit is a platform, and there are times when platforms get used for very deplorable things. We take down things we're legally required to take down, and do our best to keep the site getting from spammed or manipulated, and beyond that we try to keep our hands off."

But acknowledging that it had to do something more than respond to DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests one at a time, Reddit banned "TheFappening" and related groups from its site about a week after the flap began.

Reddit stated: "These subreddits were of course the focal point for the sharing of these stolen photos. The images which were DMCAd were continually being reposted ... We would takedown images (thumbnails) in response to those DMCAs, but it quickly devolved into a game of whack-a-mole. We'd execute a takedown, someone would adjust, reupload, and then repeat. ... It became obvious that we were either going to have to watch these subreddits constantly, or shut them down. We chose the latter."

Comments on Reddit were mixed, with some commenters noting that the site hosts plenty of other sexually explicit content that many find reprehensible.

In a blog post, Reddit noted how it addresses objectionable content: "We uphold the ideal of free speech on reddit as much as possible not because we are legally bound to, but because we believe that you - the user - has the right to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and that it is your responsibility to do so... You choose what to post. You choose what to read."

The FBI is investigating the hacker or hackers involved.