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Will Reddit's New CEO Shut Down R/RapingWomen?

It'd be a symbolic — and easy — first step in combating the harassment that has become endemic to the network. (Warning: Graphic description of an illustration.)

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Here's a subreddit that a reader tipped BuzzFeed News to this morning. It's called r/rapingwomen. It is a community dedicated to sharing rape tips and bonding over raping women. The header image is a picture of alleged serial rapist Bill Cosby with the caption "Have a sleepy pill." A cartoon in the background of the subreddit depicts a stick-figure man violently anally raping a female stick figure. The pinned post at the top of the subreddit is a 14-part series on "How to Get Away with RAPE." It has, as of this writing, 2,410 subscribers.

Now, here's a sentence from Reddit's May blog post on combatting harassment (emphasis ours): "Instead of promoting free expression of ideas, we are seeing our open policies stifling free expression; people avoid participating for fear of their personal and family safety." In the post, Reddit's admins suggest that "one of our basic rules is 'Keep everyone safe,'” which is why the site implemented a series of protocols "to prohibit attacks and harassment of individuals through Reddit with the goal of preventing them."

After embattled interim CEO Ellen Pao resigned last Friday, new Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told the redditors that Reddit "will reconsider" all the site's policies regarding harassment. "We want to keep [Reddit] as open as possible, and when we have to ban something, I want it to be very transparent that it was done and what our reasoning was," he wrote.

Despite the talk of transparency, this could mean one of a few things: that the May harassment policies, which were orchestrated under Pao's tenure, will be loosened or changed to further Reddit's particular brand of free speech. That would mean communities like r/rapingwomen will be given even more leeway to operate. Or, Huffman and the new Reddit regime intend to take brisk and concrete steps to let the greater community know that subreddits like r/rapingwomen will not be tolerated.

The question, then, is: What will Huffman do about r/rapingwomen and communities like it? His action, or inaction, will be a clear indicator of where Reddit is headed under its new, or newly restored, regime.

Does Reddit's new CEO believe that a subreddit openly dedicated to "readers that love rape" stands in opposition to the company's "basic rule" of "keeping everyone safe?" Does he believe that r/rapingwomen, which touts posts like "rape as a service to society" has the potential to contribute to a Redditor's "fear of their personal and family safety?"

If he does, there's an easy way to prove it.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Huffman and will update with any response.

The subreddit r/rapingwomen was not the fastest-growing on Reddit for July 13. An earlier version of this story misstated that it was.

Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.

Contact Charlie Warzel at charlie.warzel@buzzfeed.com.

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