Beneath the web utopia veneer of an all-accepting geek community and highlights like a crowd-sourced interview with the president, Reddit can get complicated. The massive Internet message board is divided into an endless array of categories, or "subreddits," ranging from r/politics to r/SeaCreaturePorn. Most controversial during the site's rise to international prominence, though, have been the sections dedicated to nasty leering, including r/jailbait, which was exactly what it sounds like, and more recently, r/CreepShots, starring all sorts of unwitting ladies and often the view up their skirts. These depositories flourish thanks to the anonymity the sleazy underbelly of Reddit provides, and when anyone attempts to shine a light onto those gross, and potentially illegal, areas, the community does not take it well.
Last night, moderators in the hugely popular r/politics forum announced a ban of all links to Gawker Media properties, which also include Jezebel and Deadspin, after it was discovered that Gawker was working on an article about the real-world identity of one of Reddit's most notorious users. Violentacrez, as he's known, was associated with both r/jailbait, which was shut down last year after concerns about child porn, and r/creepshots, which has been set to private after its users were deemed Predditors and outed online.
Violentacrez has since deleted his account in a panic, but the Gawker ban amounts to a showing of solidarity from those in the Reddit community:
As some of you may know, a prominent member of Reddit's community, Violentacrez, deleted his account recently. This was as a result of a 'journalist' seeking out his personal information and threatening to publish it, which would have a significant impact on his life. You can read more about it here
As moderators, we feel that this type of behavior is completely intolerable. We volunteer our time on Reddit to make it a better place for the users, and should not be harassed and threatened for that. We should all be afraid of the threat of having our personal information investigated and spread around the internet if someone disagrees with you. Reddit prides itself on having a subreddit for everything, and no matter how much anyone may disapprove of what another user subscribes to, that is never a reason to threaten them.
The article in question has not even been published — though Gawker Media has highlighted Reddit's unseemly sides repeatedly — indicating that this battle will likely continue, winding so far down the Internet rabbit hole that the rest of us will cease to hear the screaming.
But as Reddit gains notoriety and even sometimes inexplicable prestige, it's fascinating to watch the site's users flex their muscle. In this case, they're attempting to punish a media outlet — many of which are grateful for the site's traffic-driving links — for bad press. Yet, at the same time, they are highlighting some of the ugliest parts of the community, sections that are downright revolting to more mainstream users. Reddit had 3.4 billion pageviews in August, thanks in part to an interview with Barack Obama himself. If the site wants to celebrate its status as the "front page of the Internet," as its tagline brags, Reddit can't be surprised when it's no longer allowed to operate in the shadows.