The web discussion site Reddit just removed several “subreddit” discussion boards on its site frequented by Nazi and white supremacist web users as a result of a new policy change forbidding “content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people.”
Gizmodo reports “at least seven communities have been kicked off of Reddit, including r/Nazi, r/EuropeanNationalism, and r/pol (an extension of the 4chan board of the same name.)” They add that the largest of these groups had under 7,000 subscribers and the smallest had just 25.
Reddit has long struggled with how to handle the large amount of misogynists, racists and other toxic users because the company has long valued freedom of expression as one of its core values.
In addition to hosting numerous forums for racism — like its ultra-racist community r/CoonTown which was finally banned in 2015 and its /pol/ subreddit where white terrorists used to hang — the website also hosted subreddits for revenge porn enthusiasts, covertly taken upskirt photos and sexualized pictures of underaged girls (in the r/creepshots and r/jailbait subreddits), misogynist GamerGaters (in the r/KotakuInAction subreddit) and body shamers (in the r/fatpeoplehate subreddit).
This new policy change creates a clear standard by which the site can monitor and remove overtly-violent posts and may make Reddit more attractive to potential advertisers.
Facebook, Instagram and Spotify have all started banning white supremacists as well.
While some of Reddits recently booted users will argue that the website is censoring its speech (it is), they may clamor that Reddit is also violating its constitutionally protected free-speech rights (it isn’t).
Quick review: The U.S. Constitution only guarantees that the government (not company-owned websites) won’t restrict your free speech and even then, there are exceptions. For example, there is historic and legal precedent showing that racist and homophobic language inciting violence is not constitutionally protected free-speech.
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