Published on the cover of Humber Et Cetera on Monday, Oct. 22 and online Oct. 24.
One of the Internet’s most popular websites is under scrutiny and prompting questions about Internet privacy.
Reddit, a social media website whose content is user-generated, is under sharp criticism for content such as /r/CreepShots, one of its subsections or ‘subreddits’ dedicated to posting photos of women and girls taken without their knowledge.
These photos include shots of young women on buses, subways, streetcars and waiting at pedestrian crossings, typically with a focus on their buttocks or breast cleavage. The photos are often accompanied by suggestive comments.
Although Reddit has recently pulled the CreepShots subsection, critics point out that superficially disguised versions of the same thing such as subreddit r/CandidFashionPolice still thrive.
The issue received further public attention with last week’s outing of Internet “troll” Michael Brutsch, past moderator as Violentacrez of subreddits focused on underage girls and racist provocation.
What about cyber law and crime?
“We don’t have a lot of laws in place around this,” said Avner Levin, director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute at Ryerson University. “On the Internet there is an expectation of anonymity. The Internet has a sense of permanence. Things online don’t go away and you can’t throw them out.”
Hogtown gets hit
CreepShots gained recognition when it was realized by a number of Reddit users that many of the photos were taken in Toronto, and one of the moderators of the subreddit was allegedly a Toronto man.
A Reddit user whose handle was CreeperComfort was giving advice to others on the site on how to take surreptitious photos of women, and received a threatening message on the website.
The message said that the moderator needed to remove the subreddit and delete all content.
Reddit moderator threatened
“Leave only one post up: A public apology from you to the women of Toronto and to women in general for what you’ve been doing. The apology should acknowledge that /r/creepshots is a vile subreddit because it normalizes perverted behaviour…”
In response to this, someone under a /r/CreepShots moderator account, named PIMA wrote, “despite the fact a moderator has had his real-life identity compromised, I am more determined than ever to bring back /r/CreepShots and make it even bigger.”
Another user under the account named ToenailSauce, said, “that sub[Reddit] is genuinely scary… kind of made me want to vomit.”
It doesn’t stop there.
Since the removal of /r/CreepShots and its follow-up called /r/CreepSquad, a group of Reddit users anonymously started a Tumblr blog called Predditors.
Predditors.tumblr.com posts the identities of many people who posted to CreepShots, including their names, birthdates, hometown, school, workplace and photos.
What is there to do?
“We need to have some rules here for what is acceptable for use online,” Levin said. “There needs to be more accountability for facilitators of these places… If there is a complaint from someone in a photo, the person posting should be found out.”
A writer for the women’s website Jezebel.com, Katie Baker said she thinks the men who post on /r/CreepShots should be exposed to prevent this kind of thing from happening.
“It’s a really good way to get the men who do this back at their own game,” Baker said. “It’s a hypocritical argument for the men to say [exposing them] would be illegal. It’s not private information, it’s easy to find. Most of them use the same name for Twitter and Facebook as they do Reddit.”
She said that everyone is responsible for his or her digital persona and that people seem to think posting things online makes them instantly anonymous.
“It’s insane to me in this day and age how people think they can express themselves online,” Baker said. “You would never expect someone to be like that in the public sphere.”
Some Reddit users, however, defend the kind of content that was found on /r/CreepShots.
Someone under the Reddit account named Th3w1ck3dw1tch said, “The girls in those pictures already are dressed like that and are walking outside in public. Anyone walking by could see the exact same thing because it is being put on display.”