How intimate photos are being stolen by scorned partners and shared on social media platform Reddit

Thousands of people are being harassed by an anonymous mob after their private images were stolen and shared on the Reddit social media platform.

Reddit, which allows its 50 million users to host their own forums known as ‘subreddits’, has hundreds of threads dedicated to sharing intimate photos, focusing primarily on women.

Some raunchy images are pulled from the women’s Instagram and TikTok accounts, but more revealing images are often uploaded to the site by embittered exes.

Beneath the images are often dozens of cruel and demeaning comments, including threats of rape, a BBC Panorama report found.

Many users also spend their time ‘doxing’ women by sharing their personal details and addresses.

Panorama journalist Monika Plaha said she was brought to the site by an advisory and “felt sick” while reviewing some of the forums.

Thousands of people, mainly women, are being harassed by an anonymous mob after their private images were stolen and shared on the social media platform Reddit (Stock Image)

Thousands of people, mainly women, are being harassed by an anonymous mob after their private images were stolen and shared on the social media platform Reddit (Stock Image)

Revenge porn: What is the law in the UK?

Revenge porn laws came into force in the UK in 2015 as part of the Criminal Courts and Justice Act.

The Act makes it a criminal offense for a person to: ‘disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made (a) without the consent of the person shown, and (b) with the intent to cause that person distress’ .

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It means that those who maliciously share sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent could face up to two years in prison.

The law covers the sharing of images both online and offline. Images posted on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are covered by the crime, as are those shared via text message, email, on a website or through physical distribution.

The offense covers photographs or films showing people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual manner or with their genitalia exposed.

She wrote: ‘The first one I looked at focused on South Asian women and had over 20,000 users, most of whom seemed to be men from the same community, with comments in English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi.

‘Some of the women I recognized because they had a huge following on social media. Some even knew them personally.

‘There were over 15,000 images. We examined a thousand of them and found sexually explicit images of 150 different women. They were all being dehumanized as sex objects in the comments. He was sure that none of the women would have consented to appear on this forum.

Another thread saw a man offer to share an entire archive of a woman’s intimate photos for £5, while another asked for the woman’s social media accounts.

One victim, using the name Ayesha, described finding nude videos of her uploaded to the site last year and alleging that an ex-boyfriend filmed her without her consent.

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She faced a wave of harassment when her details were shared online, with men demanding sex and threatening to send the videos to her family, knowing that she came from a strict Pakistani background that did not condone sex before marriage.

After attempting suicide, she told her parents what happened, saying they both fell into depression.

When he tried to contact Reddit, one video was quickly removed, while another took four months to remove.

Panorama tracked down the Reddit user who created the forum aimed at South Asian women, including Ayesha, and identified him as Himesh Shingadia, a college-educated manager at a large company.

He deleted his subreddit after Panorama contacted him and told the show that he only intended to “appreciate South Asian women.”

Reddit, which allows its 50 million users to host their own forums known as 'subreddits', has hundreds of threads dedicated to sharing intimate photos, focusing primarily on women.

Reddit, which allows its 50 million users to host their own forums known as ‘subreddits’, has hundreds of threads dedicated to sharing intimate photos, focusing primarily on women.

Reddit allows sexual images, but has tried to clamp down on non-consensual images after several high-profile incidents.

In 2014, the site became famous when a cache of private images of female celebrities was shared on the site.

Four years later, the site’s moderators shut down a group dedicated to using “deepfake” technology to superimpose celebrity faces onto porn videos.

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The trend is seen as a continuing evolution of revenge porn and has persisted despite Reddit’s status as a mainstream platform.

In December, it was reported that revenge porn had skyrocketed during the pandemic with a 329% increase in the number of crimes over a 13-month period in London, with some victims as young as ten years old.

The data, released by the Metropolitan Police via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, showed the number of cases increased by 698 between October 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021.

Surprisingly, the number of victims between the ages of 10 and 17 quadrupled compared to the previous year.

In response to Panorama’s report, Reddit said it removed more than 88,000 nonconsensual sexual images in 2021 and takes the issue “extremely seriously.”

It says it employs a team of staff to remove private images shared without users’ consent. It adds that it regularly takes action, including closing forums.

“We know we have more work to do to prevent, detect and act on this content even more quickly and accurately, and we are now investing in our teams, tools and processes to achieve this goal,” a spokesperson said.

MailOnline has reached out to Reddit for comment.

  • BBC Panorama: Trading Nudes airs on BBC One tonight at 8pm and is also available on iPlayer.

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