Reddit is hit by a lawsuit after a woman claimed that the platform allowed her ex-boyfriend to repeatedly post images of her as a 16-year-old in a compromising position.

Reddit Faces Lawsuit

The lawsuit applies controversial measures instituted in 2018 under FOSTA-SESTA to a site that is drawn particular criticism for child sexualization.

The case will test the limits of social media platforms' legal shields amid ongoing efforts to pare back the law behind them.

The woman, with a pseudonym Jane Doe, argues that Reddit knowingly benefits from lax enforcement of its content polices, including sexual content of minors, according to Law 360.

Jane Doe claims that in 2019, an abusive ex-boyfriend posted sexual photos and videos that he had taken without her knowledge or consent.

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But when she alerted Reddit moderators about what happened, she was advised that it would take several days before the content can be removed.

The Reddit administrators allowed the man to keep posting and create a new account when his old account was banned from the platform.

The complaint reads that because Reddit refused to help, it fell to Jane Doe to monitor more than 36 subreddits, which Reddit allowed her ex-boyfriend to repeatedly use to post sexual photos of her as a minor.

Reddit's refusal to act has meant that for the past several years, Jane Doe has been forced to log on to Reddit and spend hours looking through some of its darkest and most disturbing subreddits so that she can locate the posts of her underage self and fight with the platform to have them removed.

Jane Doe is now seeking a class action suit that also represents those who had similar photos or videos posted on Reddit while they were under 18 years of age.

Reddit is accused of distributing sexual content of minors, failing to report the material, and violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It is not clear if the ex-boyfriend is also sued or is criminally charged already.

FOSTA-SESTA Amendment

The lawsuit cites FOSTA-SESTA, an amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that provides a broad legal shield for interactive computer services like Reddit, limiting their liability if users post illegal content.

However, the 2018 FOSTA-SESTA bill removed protections for material related to trafficking.

The lawsuit argues that Jane Doe's case meets that definition because Reddit's advertising revenue turned the inappropriate video into a commercial sex act.

Furthermore, the lawsuit states that Reddit knew its site was a hub for illegal photos and videos, and it should have done more to protect the victims.

The complaint cited numerous past subreddits that had sexually suggestive notes. The forums were since removed after media controversy. 

Meanwhile, Reddit denies that it condones abuse.

A Reddit spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge that child sexual abuse material, or CSAM, has no place on the Reddit platform.

The spokesperson continued that they maintain policies and procedures that do not just follow the law, but also go above and beyond it. They deploy both automated tools and human intelligence to proactively detect and prevent the dissemination of CSAM material.

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Written by Sophie Webster

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