The popular website reddit, which bills itself “the front page of the Internet” and is known for featuring forums called “subreddits” on virtually any topic, has launched a new crackdown on behavior it says constitutes “harassment.” Its first victim? A page dedicated to bashing fat people.
The subreddit r/fatpeoplehate was previously one of the site’s most popular, with its roughly 150,000 subscribers sharing stories and pictures centered around the topic of hating on the overweight and obese (this picture is a representative example). The page was also notable for banning anybody who expressed “fat sympathy” and for its hostility towards the fat acceptance movement, which argues that the obese suffer unfair discrimination and that people can have “health at any size.”
Now, if one tries to visit the page r/fatpeoplehate, they will simply run into a page saying it has been banned “for violating the reddit rules to keep everyone safe.” Several other subreddits were shut down as well, but one was a r/fatpeoplehate spinoff and the rest were extremely small.
The decision to crack down on the subreddit right now may have been occasioned by the page’s very public feud with Imgur, a popular image-hosting site that hosts most of the pictures posted to Reddit. Imgur’s administrators began removing content linked from r/fatpeoplehate, which caused the page’s users to retaliate by creating an image mocking Imgur employees for being overweight, which reached Reddit’s front page. Imgur then banned all r/fatpeoplehate content entirely, which led to the creation of the alternative site Slimgur. Just as the battle was reaching is peak intensity, Reddit imposed its ban.
This crackdown is a significant one, as reddit is the tenth most-visited site in the U.S. and has long been famous for having a laissez-faire attitude towards content. Pornographic, racist, and even borderline criminal subreddits have been allowed to exist alongside more mainstream ones dedicated to news or comedy. Given the continued existence of subreddits such as r/coontown (focused on anti-black racism) or r/watchpeopledie (exactly what it sounds like), many site users argued that it was very odd that Reddit was focusing first on protecting the feelings of the overweight.
“[It’s] because the admins are fat, not black,” one user suggested.
In a post announcing the ban published Wednesday afternoon, administrators said the move was made because the forum was being used as a platform to engage in harassment.
“We’re banning behavior, not ideas,” they said.
Many aren’t satisfied by that explanation, arguing that Reddit has instead started to push a political agenda. The page r/shitredditsays, for example, is notorious for promoting the harassment of particular users, mostly in the pursuit of progressive ideology. Despite the crackdown on harassment, that page remains active.
R/fatpeoplehate users aren’t deterred by the ban, and thousands have already moved over to a new subreddit named r/fatpersonhate. It’s unclear how long this version may last before being banned as well (Update: As of 8:00 PM, r/fatpersonhate has also been banned).
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