Reddit, after years of piling pressure, clamped down on boards that, under new guidelines, promoted hate speech. A transphobic “gender critical feminist” forum was one of them. (Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Reddit, one of the largest social networking and imageboard websites, has banned one of the most prolific “gender critical” communities as part of a sweeping overhaul of hate speech policies.
The forum, or “subreddit”, /r/GenderCritical, was described by its moderators as “reddit’s most active feminist community” for “women-centred, radical feminists” to discuss “gender from a gender-critical perspective”.
“Gender critical” is a wooly term that refers to a pocket of feminism that, at its roots, doesn’t believe a trans woman is a woman and won’t fight for their rights equally with other women.
With a heaving 64,400 members, according to archives, users regularly denied that trans women are women, voiced support to JK Rowling’s tirade of anti-trans tweets, decried gender-neutral and trans-inclusive language and argued in favour of denying trans women access to facilities.
Transphobic reddit community banned for ‘promoting hate’ in sweeping harassment crackdown.
In the quilted communities of reddit, executives cut around 2,000 other communities from across the political spectrum. These ranged from /r/The_Donald, a subreddit dedicated to US president Donald Trump, to the left-leaning podcasting group /r/ChapoTrapHouse.
While many communities were culled for inactivity, some of the most potent were pulled by reddit executives or violating the company’s revised content policy. With /r/GenderCritical shuttered for “promoting hate”.
Reddit has long been known for administrators’ freewheeling approach to moderation. In a similar vein to imageboard website 4chan, reddit roped together a patchwork of people to discuss everything from editing bird heads onto people to high-definition photographs of under the lid of a vat of paint before the painters have given it a stir.
But the website also gave refuge to people evicted from other social media websites or those who revel in reddit’s anonymity.
In presenting itself as a relaxed alternative to Facebook or Twitter, with a bare-bone content policy which was rarely enforced, the company quickly faced calls from critics to rein in the bubbling hate it has housed for the last 15 years.
On Monday, the social platform’s co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman announced a mass crackdown on some of the reddit’s most notorious forums. In a blog post titled “Remember The Human”, the company acknowledged its ginger responses in the past to tackling hate speech in its effort to position itself as a neutral digital space.
While the company has, in the past announced sharpened anti-harassment policies, many of these did little to tamper the more noxious communities.
But reddit’s new eight rules, far stricter than those before it, prohibit targeted discrimination (including on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation) as well as revealing the identities of others and trafficking illegal substances.
“I have to admit that I’ve struggled with balancing my values as an American, and around free speech and free expression, with my values and the company’s values around common human decency,” Huffman said in a call with The Verge.
It comes as social media websites overall weather escalating criticism for the ways in which moderators comb for and respond to incidents of harassment online. Both columnist Katie Hopkins and former comedy writer Graham Linehan, both fierce provocateurs and critics of LGBT+ rights, were permanently banned from Twitter.