Reddit bans 'FatPeopleHate' and other forums, citing antiharassment policy

The social-networking and news site removes five "subreddits" it says violated recently introduced rules regarding hostile posts.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read

Reddit has shut down five community forums, aka subreddits, it says went too far. Screenshot by CNET

There will be no more fat-shaming on Reddit.

The popular social-networking and news site announced Wednesday that it's shutting down five community forums, known as subreddits, as part of an antiharassment policy adopted in May.

The largest of those forums, dubbed "FATPEOPLEHATE," had more than 5,000 subscribers, the site said (Redditmetrics.com, a stat gathering group, said as many as 151,000 people had subscribed to that forum). The remaining four forums included subreddits criticized for homophobia and racism, among other things.

Traditionally known for its free-for-all style, Reddit said Wednesday that it protects the right of people to express their views but that these forums had gone too far. The bans come about a month after Reddit introduced rules inspired, in part, by a company survey which revealed that abusive posts and content had caused some people to shy away from the site and to say they wouldn't recommend Reddit to others.

Interim CEO Ellen Pao said in a statement Wednesday that the site wanted to take a step-by-step approach to ensure that the new policy is working.

"Our ultimate goal is to encourage authentic conversations and idea-sharing on an open platform with many voices participating," Pao said. "The Internet is an evolving medium and presents a number of challenges, and we're learning and hopefully improving our place in it."

Founded in 2005, Reddit has grown to become one of the most visited sites on the Web. It's been called "the front page of the Internet," tallying more than 172 million visitors last month. One of the reasons people are drawn to the site is that it offers a venue where they can share nearly whatever they want, whenever they want.

The emphasis on freedom of expression has attracted people who've weighed in on everything from politics to food to sports (and much else besides). The site has more than 9,000 subreddits, where participants discuss and share content.

Reddit isn't alone in trying to find a workable balance between unfettered speech and a controlled atmosphere. Many of the world's largest social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, have responded to problems on their own networks by introducing new policies. Most recently, Twitter announced Wednesday that it was strengthening its users' ability to block unwanted interactions with other users. The moves are all part of a growing effort to police the Internet.