Reddit and Hate Speech

Published in Social Media - 2 mins to read

Today Reddit announced the closure of numerous subreddits as part of a new wave of campaign to try to curb hate speech on the site. Amongst the restricted forums was r/the_donald, the sub dedicated to Donald Trump and his “presidential” escapades, founded in 2015 in the run up to the election the next year. It was not the only community on Reddit to have its doors forcibly closed, and all of said banned communities were right wing or conservative leaning.

On one hand, I’m happy to see the_donald go. It was a breeding ground for genuine hatred, masquerading as a political movement and demanding protection under the grounds of “free speech”. Even though I never went there, you could still feel it’s influence across the whole site - despite its popularity waning in the past couple of years, in 2015-2016 it was an unavoidable snowball as the community both grew and then attempted to infect other communities.

But it should’ve gone 4 years ago, not today, not after all its membership has fled to other sites, and the subreddit was already quarantined. Reddit has banned blatantly damaging subreddits back in 2015, and it should’ve doen so again. There was an opportunity to prevent those with hateful ideals from coalescing and preaching to impressionable young minds on the internet, and Reddit categorically failed to take it. At this point the damage is done, and banning the_donald is far too little too late, an admission of past mistakes and hopefully an indicator or future progress, but nothing that is going to meaningfully move the needle towards ending hate speech and harrassment today.

Any progress is good progress, but in the case of Reddit (let alone internet communities in general), there is still a long, long way to go.