Feb. 13, 2012 at 4:21 PM ET
Following years of Internet outrage and one breathless expose by Anderson Cooper, Reddit no longer allows sexually exploitative content featuring children and teens.
"As of today, we have banned all subreddits (forums) that focus on sexualization of children," reads a note titled "A necessary change in policy," posted Sunday on the social news site. "Our goal is to be fair and consistent, so if you find a subreddit we may have missed, please message the admins. If you find specific content that meets this definition please message the moderators of the subreddit, and the admins."
Discovered late last year by CNN's Cooper, Reddit's /r/jailbait archive of user-submitted photos is the most notorious of Reddit's sexually exploitative forums, featuring images of of post-pubescent girls scraped from unsecured Facebook profiles and the like. Shuttered briefly last year after it appeared nude photos of an underage girl were traded through the forum, /r/jailbait is hardly alone.
Similarly themed forums incude /r/preteen_girls, /r/jailbaitarchive,/r/ truejailbait, /r/GirlsinSchoolUniforms and more. These are a few of the examples listed Sunday in the forums of Something Awful, another community site, which seems instrumental in Reddit's change of policy.
Reddit, which includes guidelines against ALL CAPS and grammar correction of other users, in the past justified the existence of the /r/jailbait section and other sexual subreddits by describing itself as a bastion of free speech. As a private business, Reddit is under no burden to provide a venue for free speech, or facilitate the exploitative images. Still, the site restated its commitment to such an open community in its policy-change announcement: "We are adamant about not limiting the ability to use the Reddit platform even when we do not ourselves agree with or condone a specific use."
In allowing users to post sexual images of children on the site however, Reddit did agree and condone the content, in the opinion of many, including Something Awful user Tony Danza Clause, who launched the Something Awful thread preceding Reddit's policy change. Here's the self-explanatory post topic: "This thread is about Reddit actively trading irrefutable child porn. Do not come in here to defend r/jailbait. This isn't about the legal grey area subreddits. Reddit is blatantly posting child pornography." It features a list and direct links to the offending content, not limited to a subreddit titled "Raping Women."
Reddit states in its policy change announcement that while it follows legal guidelines, filtering borderline content has become untenable:
In the past, we have always dealt with content that might be child pornography along strict legal lines. We follow legal guidelines and reporting procedures outlined by NCMEC. We have taken all reports of illegal content seriously, and when warranted we made reports directly to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who works directly with the FBI. When a situation is reported to us where a child might be abused or in danger, we make that report. Beyond these clear cut cases, there is a huge area of legally grey content, and our previous policy to deal with it on a case by case basis has become unsustainable. We have changed our policy because interpreting the vague and debated legal guidelines on a case by case basis has become a massive distraction and risks reddit being pulled in to legal quagmire.
Content of a questionable nature is still easily found within Reddit's forums, as Something Awful editor Zack Parsons points out: "With new, rule-skirting subreddits already popping up, like /r/younbeauty and /r/CuteTeens, the admins and the people who think drooling over 10-year-olds is bad are going to have their work cut out for them."