Culture

Reddit screwed up, but it took popular pages going silent for it to admit it

If you couldn't view some of Reddit's biggest sub-Reddits today this is why.

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Content warning: this article contains discussions of sexual abuse and trauma.

Many visitors may have noticed some of their favorite public subreddits suddenly switched to private last night, with content wall messages detailing particularly scathing accusations against Reddit’s powers-that-be and a hiring decision they made that’s come back to haunt them. The protests come after reports that r/UKPolitics moderators were allegedly banning certain users and removing posts referencing Aimee Knight, a disgraced former rising UK political figure and transgender activist who, until very recently, worked as a moderator for the site.

“Reddit has hired a known enabler & protector of a convicted child rapist & torturer,” reads r/Music’s front page at the time of writing. “...We are private in protest of Reddit's conduct; we demand actionable statements from the admins.” r/Music and other dark boards also link to a separate page detailing allegations against Knight. While Knight’s infamous scandal is well documented and accessible, its reemergence onto some of the internet’s most prominent message boards is due to some solidly unsavory characters.

The article that began all this is problematic — The current whirlwind of controversy got its start via an article from The Spectator earlier this month that, while accurate in recounting the scandals surrounding Knight’s father, was written by the notoriously TERFish activist, Julie Bindel. Reddit claimed to have removed posts including Bindel’s article on the grounds they included revealing personal information related to Knight resulting in targeted harassment, something it doesn’t take kindly to when it affects one of its employees. But the move triggered a slew of criticism from Redditors — some warranted, some, not so much.

A controversial fall from two political parties — Once an up-and-comer within the Green Party, Aimee Knight was expelled from its ranks following revelations she hired her father, David Challenor, as her election agent, despite Challenor being accused of 22 offenses related to pedophilia and rape. Knight’s father was later convicted on 20 of those charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Knight would again be ousted from a separate organization, the Coventry Liberal Democrats, after tweets from their fiancée resurfaced confessing sexual fantasies related to minors. Knight contended the tweets were a hoax, and only posted from their partner’s social media account after being hacked.

Accusations of transphobia and hacked social media — Although apologetic for their “error in appointing [their] father” to his role without fully disclosing the severity of charges against him, Knight would also accuse the Green Party of transphobia in the scandal’s fallout. In doing so, Knight, referenced a long, tortuous history of misogyny and discrimination within British leftist politics, which we aren’t gonna touch with a ten-foot-poll. Suffice to say, while U.K. leftism may indeed struggle with issues of intersectionality, antisemitism, and inclusivity, it’s probably a safe bet that the powers-that-be were more concerned with Knight’s hiring of her pedophilic monster of a father than anything else.

Redditors who moderate prominent sub-Reddits decided defending Knight isn’t something the service they work so hard on for free should do. So, they flexed their collective muscle and forced the company’s hand.

The pressure paid off — GameRevolution reports the pressure worked. Reddit late today confirmed it’s fired Knight. In a statement, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman wrote:

“As of today, the employee in question is no longer employed by Reddit. We built a relationship with her first as a mod and then through her contractor work on RPAN. We did not adequately vet her background before formally hiring her.

We’ve put significant effort into improving how we handle doxxing and harassment, and this employee was the subject of both. In this case, we over-indexed on protection, which had serious consequences in terms of enforcement actions.”

That’s one (very diplomatic) way to put it.