Reddit Finally Deleted This Popular Fat-Shaming Forum

Image: Courtesy Of Reddit.
Reddit just made a major move to cut down on hateful speech in its sprawling marketplace of user-submitted content. Today, it announced a new policy of removing subreddits "that allow their communities to use the subreddit as a platform to harass individuals when moderators don’t take action." The site started by deleting five subreddits that violated this policy, including "r/fatpeoplehate," which was pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a forum for redditors to fat-shame and compare notes on their hatred of the overweight. While the subreddit was the only one of the five with more than 5,000 subscribers, the others — dedicated to fat-shaming, transphobia, and racism — were no less vitriolic.

Reddit's move arrives at a time when harassment on the Internet is under closer scrutiny than ever. Social media platforms face growing pressure to address abusive online behavior — instead of labeling it "free speech" and throwing up their hands. Twitter, especially, has come under fire for failing to crack down on harassers, and it's rolled out many new features to enable victims of abuse to more easily block and report abusers.

However, the tug-of-war between Internet users' right to freedom from harassment and their right to free speech is far from over (as we were reminded again last week when the Supreme Court voted to overturn Anthony Elonis' conviction for violently threatening his estranged wife on Facebook). Reddit's announcement of its own step to reduce cyberbullying has unsurprisingly already been met with disapproval by many redditors; responses to the announcement include "I think people will look back on this as the beginning of the end for Reddit" and "Admins will now be fielding non-stop requests from person 'x' because sub 'y' offended them somehow and they will try to spin it as harassment."

There is, of course, also the question of where fat-shamers will take their inchoate rage now that Reddit is watching their favorite outlets (or, per the wording of Reddit's policy, stepping in where moderators fail to do their job). It's wishful thinking to believe that deleting forums for hate will stem its flow rather than redirect it to other, darker corners of the Internet, but the effort is well worth making.

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