This week under the guise of a new "harassment policy" Reddit banned a number of forums from their site including the incredibly popular /r/fatpeoplehate which boasted more than 150,000 subscribed members. Substantial outrage ensued on the Reddit which lead to expressions of anger towards interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and classic fat hate images dominating the aggregated Reddit /r/all feed. While this may be Reddit's Digg inflection point which leads it to popular irrelevance, this episode exposes a larger long term trend of encroaching censorship in Silicon Valley companies and startups. Especially in ventures connected to startup fermenter Y Combinator.
Y Combinator's own Reddit like news discussion forum "Hacker News" has a long history of "manual intervention" aimed at shaping discussion and suppressing debate that makes their stable of startups and the ideas that support them look bad. Also documented but less well known is Reddit's own history of manual intervention in the ways stories are displayed, in particular Reddit's suppression of Qntra's story on the Hardfork Missile Crisis. Further once Ellen Pao ascended to the position of Reddit CEO users commenting on her and her husband's questionable legal history have been banned and content featuring information on the subject of her and her husband's ample litigation has been suppressed as well.
The banned forum which sparked this current bout of outrage /r/fatpeoplehate was a strictly moderated community that had stringent rules enforcing strict bans on identifying information attached submitted content, brigading other forums on and off Reddit, showing fat sympathy, and having a body mass index over 25. As one of the ten most popular forums on Reddit at the time of its purging it is likely behavior violating the forum's strict rules slipped through the cracks, though other forums on Reddit such as "Shit Reddit Says" which organized around harassing and doxxing other Reddit users were not banned in the manner /r/fatpeople hate was banned for condemning a physiological state counter to health. Days earlier Imgur had begun purging images hosted on their site which had been linked to on /r/fatpeople hate.
Users of /r/fatpeoplehate have flocked to 8chan, Voat, and FPH.io with no clear leader so far on where the community might settle though Voat seems to be incapable of handling the influx of shitlords who can't wait to get back to hating on hamplanets. 8chan proprietor Fredrick "Hot Wheels" Brennan has hinted on Twitter that he might exploit Reddit's present weakness by opening a Reddit like site with a far greater commitment to combating censorship.
So far the worst and least informative coverage of the Reddit situation is being driven by Ars Technica which shares a corporate parent in Advance Publications with Reddit. The first article on Ars Technica featured no information on /r/fatpeople hate beyond its size being "more than 5,000 subscribers" and it was loaded with comments and perspective from Reddit's officers. In a second article published today Ars Technica characterized the outrage over Reddit's new public embrace of censorship as entirely targeted personal harassment against Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao.
It is clear that Sam Altman and Paul Graham's startup empire centered around Y Combinator is showing cracks. Y Combinator funded venture Atomise has drawn severe criticism from the medicinal chemistry community for making all kinds of impressive promises relating to medical advances for which they haven't even developed the technology to determine if their goals are plausible yet. With Y Combinator's media arms rapidly losing credibility it becoming clear their facade of dominance lacks the structure to support the image it casts.