Dignity Defense Award: Imgur Bans and Removes All Pornography

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is pleased to present the Dignity Defense Award to Imgur, a popular image sharing website, for banning and removing all sexually explicit content and pornography from their platform.

In a blog post detailing this decision, the company states, “Explicit and illegal content have historically posed a risk to Imgur’s community and its business, disallowing explicit content will allow Imgur to address these risks and protect the future of the Imgur community.”

While they do not go into detail about what these risks are, Imgur’s high volume of pornographic content made it a breeding ground for image-based sexual abuse and child sexual abuse material. If well-enforced, Imgur’s ban of sexually explicit content will undoubtedly greatly curb the proliferation of abuse material, as well as minimize the number of children being exposed to pornography.

What is Imgur?

Imgur was initially created in 2009 by an avid Redditor, Alan Schaaf. Frustrated with the inability to upload and share images on Reddit, he created Imgur as a solution. Imgur remained the primary host for images on Reddit for almost a decade, until Reddit rolled out an in-house image-uploading tool in 2016.

While Imgur may have started as solely an image sharing service, it quickly grew into a community of its own that thrived on and off Reddit’s interface. By 2021, Imgur was reported to have 300 million monthly active users, a daily image upload cadence of 1.5 million images, and more than 84 billion monthly image views. Having outgrown its humble Ohio dorm room beginnings, in September 2021 the platform was purchased by MediaLab AI – the parent company of notoriously problematic apps like Kik and Whisper.

NCOSE Commends Imgur’s Recent Safety Improvement, While Still Calling Out the Parent Company for Highly Dangerous Apps 

Kik, a messaging platform which a convicted child sex offender called “a predator’s paradise,” has been the face of intense scrutiny from NCOSE and other industry experts for facilitating child sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse material, sexual grooming, and image-based sexual abuse. As a repeat offender on NCOSE’s annual Dirty Dozen List, Kik’s failure to take any action in combatting the slew of issues that fester on its platform is widely known. Despite the connection in ownership, NCOSE awards credit where credit is due, and Imgur’s most recent actions are no exception. We commend Imgur’s recent safety move, while still firmly condemning the parent company for its egregious failure to prioritize safety across all its apps.

Reddit’s Response to Imgur’s Decision Once Again Proves It a Top Offender 

Imgur’s decision comes at the heels of NCOSE’s international campaign against Reddit for facilitating image-based sexual abuse, including a letter signed by NCOSE and 319 other international anti-sexual exploitation and violence experts from 31 countries demanding Reddit to ban all sexually explicit content and pornography from their platform.

Imgur has long been hailed as the “main place for NSFW Reddit image uploads,” with statistics estimating that in 2021, Reddit generated 56% of Imgur’s traffic. Yet sadly, Imgur’s ban on sexually explicit content will not solve the problems on Reddit. Because Reddit is all too happy to step in to fill the “gap” created by Imgur’s safety change.

In quintessential Reddit fashion, four days prior to the implementation of Imgur’s new policy, Reddit announced that users in “NSFW” communities would be allowed to upload sexually explicit content and pornography from their desktop, a function previously only accessible through the mobile app. Reddit currently has no age or consent verification process, meaning that any of the sexually explicit content uploaded could be image-based sexual abuse.

Learn more about the problems on Reddit and call on them to change here.

NCOSE Warmly Commends Imgur’s Decision, Despite Public Backlash

In a society that is increasingly celebratory of pornography, Imgur’s decision has sadly been met with much negativity. In a May 2023 Vice article, Imgur’s decision was referred to as “Porn Deletion Apocalypse.” One Twitter user even went so far as to equate Imgur’s actions to the burning of the “Library of Alexandria.”

Yet Imgur’s unexpected and unprompted actions were a demonstration of their “continued efforts to remain a safe and fun space on the internet,” especially in a time in which technological progress almost always supersedes the well-being of its digital citizens. And for that, NCOSE applauds Imgur.

NCOSE will continue to vigilantly watch Imgur and MediaLab AI throughout the year to ensure these policies remain enforced. NCOSE commends Imgur for going against the curve and proactively combatting online sexual violence and exploitation and setting a positive example for other social media sites to follow in its footsteps.

NCOSE’s Dignity Defense Award (formerly Dignity Defense Alert) is a campaign recognizing the people, companies, and nonprofits who are taking action to defend human dignity from any form of sexual abuse or exploitation. Read more here.


EDITORS NOTE: This NCOSE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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