Football fans are increasingly turning to Reddit to find online live streams of Fifa 2018 World Cup games that are not freely available to watch in their country.

The 'Soccer Streams' forum on the social news site has more than 250,000 subscribers, with its popularity spiking during important matches during this year's tournament.

Google searches for 'Reddit soccer streams' briefly topped searches for 'Donald Trump' during Tuesday's World Cup semi-final match between France and Belgium.

Many of the streams posted to SoccerStreams are illegal feeds, which cyber security experts have previously warned could pose a danger to people watching them.

In the UK, the final between France and Croatia will be streamed for free through the ITV website and BBC iPlayer, with kick off set for 4pm BST on 15 July, however football fans in the US require a paid subscription with Fox Sports to watch the game online.

This has seen fans turn to VPN proxy services to spoof their device's location to another country where a free geo-blocked feed is available, or simply watch an illegal stream of the match shared on Reddit forums.

Reddit did not respond to a request for comment about illegal online live streaming links appearing on its platform, however the website's user agreement sets out its stance on pirated content being shared.

It states: "Reddit respects the intellectual property of others and requires that users of our Services do the same. We have a policy that includes the removal of any infringing materials from the Services and for the termination, in appropriate circumstances, of users of our Services who are repeat infringers."

Illegal live streams appearing on Reddit follows a trend that has seen other popular sites targeted by cyber criminals in order to share pirated content. 

Facebook, Periscope, Twitch and YouTube have all been used to host free feeds of World Cup games, with figures from piracy prevention firm Irdeto showing that almost three quarters of all illegal online streams appeared on these sites.

A spokesperson for Facebook recently told The Independent that it is devoting "significant resources" to address copyright issues for live content on the social network.

Irdeto's senior vice president of cyber security services, Rory O'Connor, said of the issue: "Content owners, rights holders and platform owners must continue to work together and enlist technology and proactive services to take down illegal streams in real-time as we progress further through the tournament."

With only three games left to play at this year's World Cup – the semi-final between England and Croatia, the final between the winner of that game and France, and the third-place playoff – it seems unlikely the issue will be resolved in time.

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