Reddit announced Wednesday it was banning several of the site's communities, known as subreddits, under a new anti-harassment policy led by interim CEO Ellen Pao.
"Our goal is to enable as many people as possible to have authentic conversations and share ideas and content on an open platform," the announcement from Pao and other site leaders said. "We want as little involvement as possible in managing these interactions but will be involved when needed to protect privacy and free expression, and to prevent harassment."
The statement noted the removal of five subreddits, most with no more than a few thousand subscribers. "Fat People Hate," however, had more than 150,000 subscribers. The group was the 230th largest subreddit based on subscribers at the time of its ban, according to redditmetrics.com.
The other subreddits banned were dedicated to transphobia, racism, harassing gamers, as well as another on fat-shaming.
The bans come almost a month after Reddit unveiled a new set of rules aimed at prohibiting harassment on the site, actions they defined as, "systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone."
Redditors responded to Wednesday's announcement by asking for more clarification on how the policy would be enforced.
"Is there going to be transparency as to how subreddits are determined to be harrasing? [sic]," wrote SilvanestitheErudite.
Some argued that Reddit was being selective of which communities to expunge, ignoring the racist subreddit Coontown, which has more than 10,000 subscribers.
"We're banning behavior, not ideas," Pao explained in a subsequent comment on the site. "While we don't agree with the content of the subreddit, we don't have reports of it harassing individuals."
The sites angriest users flooded Reddit on Wednesday night with degrading pictures of obese people and insulting images of Pao, who became interim CEO of the company in 2014. She is also well-known for a landmark lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins for gender discrimination, which is in the appeals process.
A petition to have Pao fired was started Wednesday night. Alternative fat-related subreddits were also started by users on the site.
In response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News about the negative response from users, a Reddit representative said, "We did this incrementally so we could manage the response with our limited resources."
"We knew there was a small but vocal minority of users who might react negatively," Heather Wilson added.
Several redditors also accused the company of heading down a slippery slope. "This is a hole with no bottom," wrote user ExplodingJesus. "Admins will now be fielding non-stop requests from person 'x' because sub 'y' offended them somehow and they will try to spin it as harassment."
Other commenters claimed the bans would mark the end of Reddit, and that users would abandon the site. "I predict this isn't going to go down well," said youareinthematrix.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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