How Reddit Became the Epicenter for ‘The Fappening’

Reddit wasn't the first place the stolen celebrity pictures appeared, but when the images hit the site, r/TheFappening became the hub for circulating them.


Since August 31st, the Internet has been losing its mind over the stolen pictures of celebrities — some of an adult nature — that have been posted all over the Web. How exactly did this happen, and what exactly has been going on for the last two weeks?

Deadspin claimed to have encountered the hacker behind “Celebgate” aka “The Fappening” a few weeks before it became common knowledge. The first time the pictures appeared in public was on 4chan and AnonIB, and the source was an alleged celebrity nude picture trading ring that had been in operation for months, if not years.

Once the pictures appeared, they made their way to Reddit, which became the epicenter. The huge influx of traffic “broke the site in several ways” according to a post from Jason Harvey, a Reddit systems administrator. Reddit admins were also contending with DMCA requests, and worried that removing the media directly would only amplify the number of users re-posting it to try and keep the r/TheFappening subreddit alive.

Throughout Sunday, August 31st the story reached critical mass, with a master list of celebrities posted to 4chan. Celebrities tweeted their responses throughout the day, and within just six days the subreddit had gained more than 100,000 subscribers, making it one of the fastest growing subreddits of all time.

By Monday morning the FBI were already involved, perhaps because of the theft aspect, or the underage aspect. However, Reddit didn’t shut down The Fappening subreddit, or related subreddits until the 8th of September. Even 4chan, one of the original sources, adopted a new DMCA policy and started banning users for these posts on the 3rd.

The issue of money has been a constant throughout the debacle. The original leaker was looking for nude pictures or cash in return for the pictures, according to Deadspin. There were rumors of a ransom, charities rejected money from redditors, and users exchanging “Reddit gold” may have paid enough into the service to keep Reddit servers up for a month — which has users wondering if that’s why the subreddit survived for so long.

Reddit hit new traffic milestones, the privacy of hundreds of celebrities was compromised and many are left wondering how iCloud servers could have been exposed. Keep in mind that the last time a hack of this nature happened, the perpetrator was sentenced to 10 years in prison. So perhaps now, all that’s left is to see if the FBI get their man this time too.