Reddit Bans 2,000 Forums For Hate‑Speech, But Bans Don’t Stop Extremist Rhetoric
Reddit just banned around 2,000 subreddits, or intra-Reddit forums, for hate-speech reasons. Among the popular subreddits banned were r//The_Donald — a pro Donald Trump subreddit, r/ChapoTrapHouse — a subreddit dedicated to a leftist podcast of the same name, and r/GenderCritical — a subreddit which frequently stood against trans and sex worker rights.
In explaining the decision to ban these forums, Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman told reporters that the social networking site was a community space, rather than a space for attacking people. This is in direct contrast to the company’s initial commitment to free speech, which advocated for a more every-man-for-himself policy. In the time between its initial policy and now, Reddit has attempted to curtail hate-speech on its forums by removing racist, predatory and hateful subreddits — notably r/FatPeopleHate — dedicated to non-consensually photographing and shaming fat people, and r/Jailbait — which posted sexually suggestive photos of minor teenagers. However, a clear policy against hate is a first for the website.
The new Reddit content policy’s first rule says, “Remember the human. Reddit is a place for creating community and belonging, not for attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people. Everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying, and threats of violence. Communities and users that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.” However, a ban may not accomplish the desired result, because previous instances prove that extremists don’t stop being extremists when their platforms are taken away.
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Fringe groups have always relied on free speech to stay bigoted, and so they thrive on platforms like 4chan and Reddit, long known for their commitment to creating a space where users can speak their mind. However, hate-speech is a universal social networking platform issue, and bans have never stopped extremists from speaking their mind. Far-right extremists have frequently found spaces online, regardless of which social media platform bans them, with the notable exception of Milo Yiannopolous, whose public following died almost immediately after he was banned from Twitter.
Plus, bans usually solidify their belief that other people want to curtail their free speech and simply move elsewhere, as r/The_Donald members did when Reddit placed multiple restrictions upon them before enacting a ban. As long as there is space on the Internet, extremists will continue to speak.
This abrupt shift in a tech company’s ethos may be due to the Black Lives Matter movement, which triggered many instances of corporate accountability. In fact, Reddit’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the company’s board of directors and insisted a black man fill his space. It may also be due to #StopHateforProfit, a campaign via which top advertisers like Coca Cola, Microsoft, and Starbucks lead an organized boycott of Facebook — notorious for hate speech, and its lack of action against said hate speech. Either way, social media is changing, and Reddit would not be left behind.