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Voat is the online forum where banned Reddit users can freely use hate speech

By Alma Fabiani

May 7, 2020

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What is Reddit?

For those of you who never deep-dived into the darkest pages the internet has to offer, forums and the many online communities might still be a mystery. Among websites where social news aggregation, web content ratings and discussions take place, Reddit is probably the most popular.

Founded in 2005 and sold to Condé Nast 16 months later for allegedly a mere $10 to $20 million, Reddit is a social news platform that allows users to discuss and vote on content that other users have submitted. To help regulate the website and prevent spammers from bombarding readers, Reddit offers users ‘karma points’. When a user’s post or comment is being upvoted by other users in the community, they receive karma points.

Reddit has an impressive network of communities based on people’s interests, which are separated into different pages called ‘subreddits’. Anyone is welcome to open a new subreddit, and you can find them about absolutely everything, from one about Trees Sucking On Things to another one about chairs underwater. A few subreddits dominate the platform however, with the News one accruing a good 20.6 million subscribers, and the recently booming Coronavirus one racking up 2 million subscribers in just 4 months.

According to Alexa Internet, in July 2019, Reddit.com ranked as the fifth most visited website in the US and 13th worldwide.

Why is it called ‘Reddit’?

Because if you spend hours on Reddit, or even the occasional under the radar scroll, no doubt you would have ‘read it’ on pretty much every topic under the sun. Get it?

What is Voat?

Launched in 2014 and initially called WhoaVerse, Voat.com is aesthetically and functionally very similar to Reddit. Like Reddit, Voat is a collection of posts—links, pictures and text posts—submitted by its registered users to themed categories called ‘subverses’.

Unlike Reddit, Voat has loose content restrictions and an ad-revenue sharing programme.

Why is it called ‘Voat’?

The website’s mascot is a goat, which is why the name ‘Voat’ is a mix of the words ‘goat’ and ‘vote’.

Voat vs Reddit

Although some Reddit users also have a reputation for being ‘social justice warriors’ (SJW) of racism and sexism, they’re nothing compared to Voat users. It is known that when Reddit users eventually get banned from the platform because they posted something too offensive to be acceptable, they migrate to Voat.

For example, the now-banned subreddit called ‘Fat People Hate’ reconstituted itself on Voat under the same name and has 43,492 subscribers. That’s the perfect example of what separates Reddit from Voat.

Voat users like to claim their right to post anything and not meddle or censor content unless it is illegal. While Reddit’s censorship can also be considered too light or inefficient in some cases, Voat users qualify it as “out of control.”

The major differences between the two platforms highlight the problem the internet is dealing with; how far should freedom of speech go online, and when should censorship be applied? A question that the controversial philosopher Jordan Peterson wanted to fix with his social network Thinkspot.

The internet’s conflicted relationship with free speech

Just like Facebook and Twitter, Reddit has always proclaimed itself as a place for free speech. It lets individual moderators strictly regulate their own subreddits, but when it comes to banning specific subreddits, its policies are somewhat inconsistent. That being said, most Reddit users tend to shut down anyone making racist, homophobic, and sexist comments.

On the contrary, Voat offers its users complete free reign—similar to a safe space for hatred and alt-right views. On the platform, the fine line between tolerating something and celebrating it seems to have blurred into something that cannot be censored.

Voat is not only made of white supremacists and fat-shaming users, but the fact that it still tolerates some of these opinions is a problem that clearly shows how we are still struggling to regulate the internet.