Alexis Ohanian: How ‘revenge porn’ and a nude celebrity leak changed Reddit

Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City, May

By the time the dust settled on the 2014 celebrity scandal known as “The Fappening,” more than 500 nude and partially nude photos allegedly of celebrities had made it into the public domain — largely because of a photo dump on Reddit.

The social network known as “the front page of the Internet” reportedly made bank as a result of the leaked photos, something Alexis O’Hanian, the company’s co-founder, was not too happy about.

Instead of reaching out to Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence or any of the 100 or so celebrities whose photos were leaked, O’hanian says they spoke directly to a different group affected in a very similar way.

“We spoke to victims of revenge porn,” said Ohanian, speaking on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC in Midtown Manhattan. “They didn’t have agents, but they’re still important.”

At the time of the leaked images, which exploded on Reddit and quickly spread elsewhere, Ohanian said he met with Ellen Pao, Reddit’s CEO and the former Kleiner Perkins junior partner who lost a high-profile bias case against the venture capital firm in March, to determine how Reddit could take a leadership position in response to a lax policy that some blamed for the leak in the first place.

In February, Reddit, which was founded in New York but moved its headquarters to the San Francisco Bay Area last year, updated its privacy policy to ban revenge porn. Not everyone thought the decision made Reddit a leader.

“Reddit’s new commitment is laudable,” sexual privacy attorney Carrie A. Goldberg told Vice at the time. “But it would be amnesic to consider Reddit a leader in protecting revenge porn victims from ongoing sexual humiliation and exposure.”

However, as Ohanian noted, shortly after Reddit updated its privacy policy this March, Twitter did the same. “I really do believe reasonable voices will prevail,” Ohanian said today.

Since the move to the Bay Area, Ohanian has been splitting his time, he said, between San Francisco and New York, where he grew up. Last month Reddit had 169 million users viewing 7.5 billion pages.

Also today, Ohanian announced Reddit Video, which looks a lot like the company’s Ask Me Anything product, with video.

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