A week after hundreds of explicit images of more than a dozen celebrities were leaked online, Reddit has decided to shut down The Fappening thread which was continuously posting links to these stolen images.
The Fappening, which at one point had over 100,000 subscribers and was the fastest growing subreddit ever, was set up in the wake of the celebrity nude images being leaked on anonymous image board Anon-IB, and became a central hub on Reddit for those looking to view the pictures.
Celebrities like actor Jennifer Lawrence and model Katie Upton had images stolen from their iCloud accounts by a group of hackers who posted a selection of the images online, claiming they have images relating to dozens of more celebrities which have not yet been leaked.
On Saturday, administrators at Reddit decided to ban The Fappening subreddit and associated threads to comply with requests made under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA).
The subreddit, which was set up by a user called Johnsmcjohn, attracted record levels of traffic to the site (reports suggest 250 million views in six days) and the volume of traffic almost knocked Reddit offline according to one of the site's system administrators, who spoke about the fallout from the leaks.
Reddit said that it had received DMCA notices from the owners of the pictures almost immediately after the leaks became public, but removing images just attracted the anger of Reddit users who quickly posted multiple alternative links to the same images.
"We continued to receive DMCA takedowns as these images were constantly rehosted and linked to on Reddit, and in response we continued to remove what we were legally obligated to, and beyond that instructed the rights holders on how to contact image hosts."
What resulted was a game of cat-and-mouse between the Reddit administrators and its users:
"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."
The thread came under more scrutiny last week when it was revealed that leaked images of US Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney were taken when she was underage and that anyone hosting them or linking to them could face child abuse charges.
On Sunday, the site banned The Fappening at the same time as posting a blog entitled "Every Man is responsible for his own soul" stating that it would not ban questionable subreddits. This led to a lot of confusion among the community:
"What happened is that we wrote the blog post, and at approximately the same time, activity in that subreddit starting violating other rules we have which do trigger a ban, so we banned it."
Reddit said that while it hit recorded huge traffic numbers in the wake of the leaks, it was not necessarily something it was proud of:
"We hit new traffic milestones, ones which I'd be ashamed to share publicly," the site's administrator said.
Responding to the shutting down of his subreddit, Johnsmcjohn carried out an Ask Me Anything on the site where he said his intention was not to become the central hub for hosting these leaked images:
"I did not start the sub to be the prime place on the internet for celeb leaks. I created it because I liked the name and I thought it would get a decent sized community modded by myself and a few other mods I'd selected. I never thought it'd be the fastest growing sub in history, but when it was, I rolled with it and tried to ensure any content was in line with Reddit's rules."