Explicit photos, videos of South Asian women traded in Reddit forum, report reveals

  • BBC Panorama’s investigative report uncovered a subreddit where thousands of users would allegedly trade and sell leaked explicit material featuring South Asian women.
  • The forum was created and moderated by Reddit user Zippomad, who was later identified as Himesh Shingadia, a “university-educated” man who “works as a manager at a large company.”
  • Before Shingadia deleted the subreddit, it reportedly had more than 20,000 members and over 15,000 images. Thousands of these images were sexually explicit pictures of 150 different women, according to BBC Panorama.
  • Seven women who reportedly fell victim to the forum told BBC Panorama that Reddit is not doing enough to rectify the issue. Four victims claimed that the website never removed their pictures, while other victims said they waited eight months before their pictures were removed.
  • "We know we have more work to do to prevent, detect, and action this content even more quickly and accurately, and we are investing now in our teams, tools, and processes to achieve this goal," a Reddit spokesperson told BBC Panorama.
  • Shingadia reportedly took down his subreddit after being contacted by BBC Panorama and claimed that he made the forum to “appreciate South Asian women.”

An investigative report uncovered a subreddit where users would allegedly trade and sell leaked explicit material featuring South Asian women.

BBC Panorama reported that among the dozens of subreddits it looked into which were dedicated to sharing intimate photos and videos of women in the United Kingdom, one of them focused on leaked explicit material of South Asian women.

During its investigation, BBC Panorama reportedly found that the unnamed subreddit, which had over 20,000 members before it got deleted, had over 15,000 images. Thousands of these images were sexually explicit pictures of 150 different women who the subreddit’s users would dehumanize as sexual objects in the comments.

Some of the women’s personal details were shared on the subreddit, according to the report. One of the alleged victims who came forward using the pseudonym Ayesha told BBC Panorama that she was blackmailed after videos of her started circulating on the subreddit last year.

“If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll send it to your parents. I will come and find you… If you don’t agree to having sex with me, I will rape you,” one of her harassers allegedly told her in a message.

Being a Pakistani girl, it’s not right in our community for us to even get sexual before marriage or anything like that – that’s not acceptable,” Ayesha told BBC Panorama.

She claimed that she had to contact Reddit several times to have the videos of her taken down. One of the reported videos was removed immediately, while Ayesha had to wait four months for another one to be deleted.

However, the videos of her were already widely circulated on Reddit and other websites. One of the videos was eventually re-uploaded to the original subreddit created and moderated by Zippomad a month later.

Seven other women who fell victim to the forum tried to have their images removed, according to the report. The alleged victims told BBC Panorama that they do not think Reddit is doing enough to rectify the issue — four of them claimed that the website never removed their pictures, while others said they waited eight months before their pictures were removed.

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

The social media aggregator said it removed more than 88,000 non-consensual sexual images in 2021 and has taken several actions to address the ongoing issue, such as shutting down various subreddits.

Reddit has a set of rules for its users to follow, which include respecting the privacy of others.

Instigating harassment, for example by revealing someone’s personal or confidential information, is not allowed,” its third rule states. “Never post or threaten to post intimate or sexually-explicit media of someone without their consent.” Failure to follow the rules can result in a range of punishments, such as being asked “nicely to knock it off” for light cases. For more extreme cases, content is removed and entire Reddit communities get banned.

BBC Panorama noted that Zippomad created three versions of the subreddit – containing a variation of its original name – after Reddit took down each previous version. The forum clones were reportedly filled with the same explicit material.

After some digging, BBC Panorama uncovered the real identity of Zippomad by analyzing his username and searching for people online who sell Zippo lighters. BBC Panorama organized a meet-up with the man through an undercover reporter and eventually learned that his real name is Himesh Shingadia.

Shingadia, a “university-educated” man who “works as a manager at a large company,” took down his subreddit after being contacted by BBC Panorama, according to the report. He allegedly claimed in a statement that he made the subreddit to “appreciate South Asian women,” and he also said that it was difficult to moderate the subreddit due to its high volume of members. 

Reddit reportedly took down other forums similar to Shingadia’s after being notified by BBC Panorama.

Featured Image via Pexels / Brett Jordan

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