See You Later, Assholes: Reddit Bans Fat-Harassing Subreddit and Users Revolt

by Alexa Salvato

I love few things more than I love free speech. I have the First Amendment memorized, people. That’s why I feel pretty confident in saying that Reddit’s decision to remove five harrassing “subreddits” (sort of like a forum, for those who aren’t familiar with Reddit) is not censorship, but vital for creating a safe online community.

The most prominent removed subreddit is called Fat People Hate, which had more than 5,000 subscribers. The forum’s users posted and demeaned pictures of fat people or fat-acceptance/body-positive activists.

Why did Reddit finally take this step to prevent fatphobia on their site? “Our goal is to enable as many people as possible to have authentic conversations and share ideas and content on an open platform,” said Team Reddit members in an official announcement yesterday. “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.”

Not surprisingly, Fat People Hate users are upset that it’s been shut down, and arguing that many more offensive subreddits still exist—which they absolutely do (read more about that here—and hopefully, this attention will get those stopped too). The defender’s most common claim has been that it’s not harassment if it exists solely in the forum and not in the “real world.” Newsflash: The Internet IS the real world. It is made up of living people siting behind smartphones and laptop screens, people with thoughts and feelings and, yes, with bodies. 

Regardless, this was a big move for Reddit. As Alex Abad-Santos from Vox writes, “Reddit’s decision to shut down this forum has set an important precedent — the first of the site’s bans against harassment — sending shockwaves throughout its massive readership and raising questions about censorship and free speech.”

Fat People Hate’s posts have since been removed from the site, but Vox’s article has some screenshots if you’re curious. (I don’t recommend looking at them—they’re vile, as well as triggering for some individuals.) Looking at them reminded me that as much as I’m against censorship, our Founding Fathers knew nothing about subreddits and cyberbullying when they waxed poetic about “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

And let’s not forget that a private company moderating its users is a far cry from systematic government censorship. I’m glad Reddit took this first step—hopefully of many—to make their site a safer place for its users and the Internet as a whole.

Image via Reddit


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