Reddit banned over 2000 "hate subs" on June 29, attempting to quell "hateful and violent speech". Or as Variety put it "Reddit removes 2,000 Racist and Violent Forums."
Your usual suspects were among the banned forums, naturally, and as has happened before, a bunch of rather risque ones were still left up. Reddit wants to be your first advertising page of the internet after all, so it still needs all that diverse content. Reddit has fought the Somethingawful forums, and still managed to keep some of their seedier subs. Reddit has also battled internal troll-mods, like Violentacrez, and still managed to keep their traffic in the darker subs. Is it different this time? They kicked off a sub dedicated to Donald Trump called /r/the_donald which was quarantined for so long that nobody noticed it was still there anyway, and subs like r/Old_Europe and r/PaleoEuropean were banned too. Wait, nerding out on history is hateful speech now? What is going on?
Reddit CEO/co-founder Steve Huffman, said in a post about the mass-banning of subs and users; “I admit we have fallen short” in supporting the site’s communities and moderators with respect to adopting a comprehensive anti-hate policy.
“We are committed to working with you to combat the bad actors, abusive behaviors, and toxic communities that undermine our mission and exist solely to get in the way of the creativity, discussions, and communities that bring us all to Reddit in the first place”
Reddit provided some helpful examples of hateful activities that would violate the rule.
So that sounds all very sensible and everyone-can-agree, right? Except that's not how this works, as we've learned from experience here. Just like when Wordpress shut down several feminists blogs without warning, someone was pushing specifically to get the feminist subs and users banned.
Reddit killed a sub called /r/gendercritical. Ooh that sounds like a really violent hateful sub, doesn't it? Let's read their sidebar:
Gender Critical is a subreddit to analyze gender from a critical perspective. We are a radical feminist and women centered community. This is a place to think critically about gender, the erasure of lesbian culture and the appropriation of women's spaces. In short this is a place to discuss radical feminism without fear.
Your usual suspects of degrading porn subs were still there, /r/strugglefucking, /r/deadeyes, /r/slaveauctions and many many more. But a radical feminist sub was "violent speech" apparently.
/r/Gendercritical was without a doubt Reddit's most active feminist community, moderated by women, with nearly 65,000 subscribers and more than 27,000 daily users. The way this particular sub was banned looked like a targeted attack, in particular when you view the mod reports received on July 29 as shared by one of the moderators. (archive)
Why, it looks as if those reports are made by bots. As if the /r/Gendercritical sub was targeted to be removed.
A powermod on Reddit called Bardfinn admits that they have taken it upon themselves to cleanse Reddit of gender-critical forums because according to them the users are all "anti-semitic white supremacists". In a comment that seems to be clearly against Reddit's new anti-harassment rules, they say "r/ItsAFetish's hate content is my new prime project."
Bardfinn even admits to being a serious cyberstalker, keeping tabs of Reddit users across platforms:
I run a tracking database of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and LGBTQ hatred.
I have 30,000+ accounts catalogued and classified from Reddit that I track and analyse.
Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose, but this is a person who in the very same breath claims that Magdalen Berns (youtube) is spouting Nazi Propaganda and that Julie Bindel is 'forwarding the religious values of the Russian Orthodox Christian church'.
Not ready to quit yet, the Gendercritical women are planning on setting up camp elsewhere, as there are many Reddit alternatives out there. Some with better Terms Of Services than others. A moderator from Reddit's now banned sub Gendercritical comments on their search for alternatives; "We looked into several open-source link aggregator projects, including Lemmy, and found them lacking basic features we needed."
It is clear now that Reddit is growing increasingly hostile to any topic that centers on women's issues, as even the sub PCOS - for women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome - was invaded by users that started gender debates in each post. In response, women posted screendumps on Twitter with the hashtag #Reddithateswomen.
I'm going to make a thread of screenshots of reddit's censorship that happened in r/PCOS over the last week.
r/PCOS was a sub for women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome.
— Krithika (@krithika0) July 8, 2020
Moderation of user-generated content isn't easy, and what was once called "a platform of free speech" by co-founder Alexis Ohanian can just as easily become the opposite, due to one power hungry mod called Bardfinn. Who brags about taking down subs that contain information they don't like: "I've written investigative work of /r/neovaginadisasters that led to the subreddit being banned by Reddit."