Reddit, a 10-year-old internet community with 3.3 million users, somehow just got around to announcing an anti-harassment policy last month. Now the site, which usually leaves moderation decisions up to the community, has taken its first stab at banning pernicious subreddits under the new rules. Five subreddits have been shuttered by reddit admins “based on their harassment of individuals,” the Reddit team announced Wednesday.
“The only banned subreddit with more than 5,000 subscribers is r/fatpeoplehate,” the admins note. The others were r/hamplanethatred (3071 subscribers), r/transfags (149), r/neofag (1239) and r/shitniggerssay (219).
Presumably, these subreddits were shut down as a result of reports from users that they were harassing individuals, per the new policy. Archived versions of the subs show numerous posts mocking people for being fat, trans, black, or members of the video game forum NeoGAF (which redditors apparently believe has been taken over by the menace of liberal “Social Justice Warriors”).
“We want as little involvement as possible in managing these interactions but will be involved when needed to protect privacy and free expression, and to prevent harassment,” the admins wrote, explaining their philosophy regarding banning.
And this really is as little as possible. When the harassment rules were first announced, my colleague Ashley Feinberg asked Reddit, “If the rules do apply to specific subreddits, will Reddit be taking any steps to ensure that they don’t simply restart in another form?”
It looks like the answer is no. FatPeopleHate, the most popular of the banned five, has apparently had an offshoot called FatPeopleHate2 for more than a year. It’s still active, and getting more attention than ever after the bannings.
And while this handful of five relatively small subreddits is gone (or at least forced to restart under new names), they barely scratch the surface of the virulent shit that thrives on reddit. Blatant hate subs like the anti-black /r/CoonTown (10,000+ subscribers) still exist because, as a Reddit spokesperson told us last month, “Views we disagree with or find offensive will not be affected.”
While Reddit remains committed to protecting users’ freedom to call people “nigger,” “ape,” and “coon,” that’s not good enough for the site’s fans of Real Free Speech, who are bailing for unregulated Reddit clone Voat.co now that harassment is (kind of, sort of, maybe) not allowed. (Voat has been around for months now, welcoming ex-redditors fleeing Reddit’s alleged conspiracy of leftist-Zionist Social Justice Warrior moderators).
Starting to crack down on harassment has positioned Reddit in an awkward middle ground—too Coontown for the mainstream, too moderated-even-the-tiniest-little bit for those who cry censorship because a company (remember, Reddit is a business) won’t give their No Fatties club a place to meet.
It remains to be seen whether the results of this experiment push Reddit to turn back or keep cleaning house.