What's Reddit Going to Do With Money Made Off Stolen Celebrity Nudes?

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When partakers of /r/thefappening attempted to donate money to make some sort of statement about how trafficking in stolen celebrity nude photos didn't make them total cretins, multiple charities rejected their crusty money. But what of Reddit itself?


Wired talked to the man who founded /r/thefappening, 33-year-old call-center salesman John Menese. He claims that before admins finally banned his subreddit, it generated enough cash to run the company's servers for almost a month. Specifically, 27 days. Which is pretty fucking shocking! How he arrived at that figure:

That statistic, he says, is based on how many times members of the subreddit paid for so-called Reddit "gold," the $3.99-per-month premium accounts that users often gift to each other to bestow a few extra features and prestige. Each subreddit publicly displays the amount of server time paid for by its members' Reddit gold, and Menese tracked his forum's contribution until just before it went offline.

So basically a bunch of users bought subscriptions for other users. Ars Technica ran through how much cash that actually translates to (assuming Mr. Meneses is, er, a reliable narrator, which is a pretty damn big assumption!):

For the back of napkin math, 27 days multiplied by 24 hours is a total of 648 hours. Dividing 648 hours by 4.6 equals 140.9. And 140.9 subscriptions at $3.99 a piece would be $562 earned per server. reddit presumably has quite a few servers, and this take doesn't include what the site would have also made from display and self-serve ads.

Since nobody knows how many servers Reddit runs on, people are throwing around estimates wildly varying estimates for total dollars made. But (big big but) the server-time calculations displayed for each subreddit are actually per server (source), so it's probably less than a thousand bucks. (And it's worth noting that any gains were weighed against the fact employees had to drop everything and scramble to keep the site up, under the flood of increased traffic.)

And, of course, they still get to keep all those pageviews.

Reddit is, thus far, merely hemming and hawing about whatever money they might've made. Said admin Jason Harvey in an explanation on the site:

This is a tricky issue, one which we haven't figured out yet and that I'd welcome input on. Gold was purchased by our users, to give to other users. Redirecting their funds to a random charity which the original payer may not support is not something we're going to do. We also do not feel that it is right for us to decide that certain things should not receive gold. The user purchasing it decides that. We don't hold this stance because we're money hungry (the amount of money in question is small).


But even if it isn't much cash, the donations that Water.org and the Prostate Cancer Foundation gently but firmly rejected weren't an enormous fortune, either. Seems like now would be a good time to pull out the corporate checkbook or hit the refund button—whichever floats Reddit's boat.



Surely, Ms. Faircloth, you feel the same way about Jezebel's parent company, Gawker media.

It got about 4.4 million views. That's at least $22,000 assuming Gawker's estimated CPM of $5/1000 clicks. It's probably much more because that burst of traffic probably brought lots of traffic on other pages, and lots of new regular readers.

Gawker's JLaw post included an image with direct URLs to the nudes, (though ostensibly was only included as a 'list of celebrities whose nudes had been linked', Dayna Evans opted to not blur the URLs out). That is to say, Gawker media also made a hefty profit off of aiding in the distribution of these pictures. The only difference is that Gawker media was careful to give itself plausible deniability as to that being its intent.

Now, it's not a lot, but $22,000 is not nothing.

I'm ready to hear an argument as to "this is what's ethical, this is what people should do, even if it is costly to them professionally" from any editorial author. But this editorial invites a natural skepticism since you're unwilling to make even a token effort to follow the social mandate that you are so ready to judge others by. You're too hesitant to acknowledge "ill-gotten gains" of your parent company simply because it might be professionally uncomfortable for you.

I'm also somewhat confused by this article's simultaneous suggestion that Reddit the company is obligated to "buy indulgences" for its role in the distribution of the illicit photos, while it simultaneously mocks and casts aspersions on Reddits' users for their efforts to do the very same. Can one pay off their sins or not?

If the people who looked at the naked pictures are laughable sleazeballs for trying to 'make it less bad' by donating to charity, then how would it be better if reddit the company did the same thing? Is it merely a matter of amount, as you seem to suggest in your last few paragraphs? If only those pervs on reddit who donated to prostate cancer had been wealthier, it might've all been okay.