So, Reddit may not be dead. Hell, it probably isn’t. It’ll go on the way it has, at least for a while. Still, it’s fallen, fallen from favor, fallen from trust. I’ve been trying to use Voat.co more myself, though I still visit Reddit, I find I visit less and comment even less so.
A bit of history, because it’s important as to why Reddit has fallen. A lot of coverage on this seems to focus around /r/fatpeoplehate and other “hate groups” but this is just one part of a much larger more complex puzzle. It’s honestly, a pretty small piece, it’s just the easiest piece to swallow and point to.
The recent fall probably started with “The Fappening”. Photos of several popular celebrities were leaked from their private iCloud accounts (supposedly, I’m not sure this was ever truly confirmed). These were private photos, as in, mostly nude photos. Reddit was forced to take action against it’s long standing “Anything goes” policy and take down the photos. It’s understandable, there were legal DMCA requests, the materials in question were without a doubt illegally obtained and illegally distributed. No big deal, and an appropriate response. Was it a bit hypocritical considering there are subreddits promoting piracy and leaks of non celebrity people? Probably, but at the very least this was a legal compliance matter.
Then there was the sudden closure of /r/fatpeoplehate. I have no personal experience with this subreddit. I am aware that there are many “hate” sub reddits on the site though, including /r/coontown, which was not closed down and is arguably worse. There is all sorts of history of violent, hate and activity around racial hate, there is considerably less history of actual violence towards fat people. That doesn’t justify it, but it seems really odd that somehow /r/coontown was acceptable but /r/fatpeoplehate was not. The confusion was complicated further when /r/whalewatching was closed later the same day. This subreddit was a legitimate subreddit for actual whale watching, as in, the giant sea creatures. Granted it had been “taken over” by folks from /r/fatpeoplehate, but checking farther in the archives would show that this was a recent occurrence and the subreddit wasn’t a dedicated hate sub Reddit. Forced closure seems a bit extreme and knee jerk there.
Still, this really wasn’t that bad. Reddit wants to purge hate speach, fine, they are well within their rights to do so and it probably makes the site a better place for it. It’s hard to feel sympathy for the people outraged that their hate subreddits were closed.
The real ultimate problem was the firing of Victoria. Victoria was a very well liked mod that handled the organization and PR for a lot of the iama events. By all accounts she was excellent at what she did and everyone loved her. I have no idea who she is, but her sudden firing definitely had the most impact on my respect for Reddit. We’ll probably never know why Victoria was fired, the speculation is out there, some of it more plausible than others.
Shortly before being fired there was an AMA for Rev. Jessie Jackson that went extremely south, there is some speculation that the powers that be were not happy about this. There is also some speculation that Reddit wanted Victoria to organize more heavily commercialized and essentially pre planned out AMAs for commercial purposes. These two are my favorite conspiracy theories, I have no idea if either is true.
The commercialized angle is a good one though, and it’s obvious all over Reddit these days. Threads that are mysteriously deleted despite tons of upvotes and no obviously negative content. They are often refuting claims of the topic or some major news story. It’s blatant suppression of information and ideas. At the same time there are all sorts of paid posts that promote a movie or a TV show or even some idea or product that seem to spring from nowhere with 5000 upvotes. Reddit in general lately is desperate to cash in on it’s growing user base with no clear idea how to do it. Display ads are generally ineffective and not a lot of people buy Reddit Gold. Not to mention that the more techno savvy audience that Reddit tends to draw is likely using an ad blocker anyway. This also aligns with the push to close “hate” subreddits. Big name advertisers are fine with advertising next to news or discussion about gadgets, no one wants to advertise next to /r/fatpeoplehate.
The core issue with all of this is, Reddit has built itself on the backs of it’s users. It creates little if any content itself. People have clocked there BECAUSE of it’s open nature. Because it’s a place to discuss news or LEGO or hockey or whales or Raspberry Pi or porn or hating fat people or pics of cats in neckties. It’s a community where discussion can form around any topic, open discussion. If people in /r/LEGO get pissy anytime Mega Bloks is mentioned, you can go and create /r/buildingblocks and encourage the discussion of all LEGO style bricks.
The censorship of topics is tricky, because what is offensive. A lot of people agree that hating black people or fat people isn’t great, but some people still do it and don’t think it’s wrong. There are people who are going to think a lot of topics are “wrong” and don’t deserve discussion. Lots of people dislike the gay and transgender community, lots of people dislike cats, some people dislike non LEGO bricks. These are all topics of decreasing importance of course but the point is, someone will always not agree with the opinion of someone else, who decides?
The community has been built up deciding for itself. It’s why we have moderators, it’s why there are upvotes and downvotes. Popular opinion won’t let the discussion of /r/fatpeople hate make it to the front page by design. You also don’t HAVE to go to these subreddits. you can pretend they aren’t even there. Admittedly you can’t always just ignore a problem and hope it goes away but often not giving attention to an issue, it WILL fizzle out and go away. All the negative publicity for /r/fatpeople hate has almost definitely increased it’s followers and supporters.
I feel like the main reason Reddit has survived the repeated waves of bad publicity is the lack of real alternatives. Voat is the most promising, but it’s been plagued with load issues each time Reddit does some major screw up and angers the community. It’s doesn’t help that Voat is supposedly being DDOSed (according to Voat). Assuming the DDOS is true, this just lends more credence to the Reddit conspiracy, who else would bother DDOSing Voat besides Reddit, Voat isn’t a threat to anyone else. It’s pretty trivial to buy a botnet to DDOS a site and Reddit has a lot to protect by making it hard for people to migrate to Voat. It’s entirely possible Voat simple can’t handle the incoming user load. They have a donate button but they only take Bitcoin. Supposedly, Paypal has blacklisted them, which is also suspicious. Paypal blacklists places like Wikileaks that promote the release of leaks or crypto mail services that encourage encrypted private communication. There really isn’t a reason for Voat to be blacklisted except the influence of a large corporate entity with everything to lose.
It doesn’t help that Voat keeps getting negative publicity either. The same commentary pushing that banning /r/fatpeople hate was the only reason for the Reddit Revolt will also suggest Voat as the new bastion of hate for all groups. Voat has all the same topics as Reddit and anyone can create subverses. There is probably a /v/fatpeoplehate but I’m just as aware of it’s activities as I was /r/fatpeoplehate, which is to say, I don’t know or care. Voat isn’t the “new place to go hate people”, it’s just “the new place to run an open community on any topic.”