Reddit Actually Does Something About Harassment on Its Site

Reddit has long been a place on the Internet where “free speech” has essentially meant that pretty much anyone can say anything, regardless of whether or not that speech involves racist, homophobic, misogynist or otherwise super offensive stuff. Remember Violentacrez, the infamous, prolific (and beloved on the site) troll involved with subreddits that included “Jewmerica,” “N*ggerjailbait” and “Chokeabitch”? His problem was that he got outed, his anonymity revealed. But the subreddits he started were perfectly at home on a site where the motto might as well have been “anything goes—no matter how awful.”

But that stance seems to be slowly changing. On Wednesday, Reddit announced it was banning five subreddits and changing its policy on harassment. In a statement posted on the site, Reddit notes that its “goal is to enable as many people as possible to have authentic conversations and share ideas and content on an open platform. 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.”

As a result, five subreddits are being banned by the site: r/transf*gs, r/neof*g, r/hamplanethatred and r/shitn*ggerssay. (Fill in the vowels and the goals of most of these are pretty obvious.) The fifth—the most popular of the newly removed subreddits, with 5,000 subscribers—is r/fatpeoplehate, a place where the sort of people who actually need a special group to hate on fat people could gather and just be The Actual Worst together.  

Unsurprisingly, there’s been pushback from plenty of Reddit users, decrying censorship, and presumably, applying Godwin’s Law ad nauseum.

CEO Ellen Pao – a friggin’ woman – is taking heat from a few expected sources for presumably leading the change. In the meantime, it’s a wait-and-see game if the many Reddit members who say they’ll leave the site in protest will actually follow through. 

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