Think Reddit Is a Cesspool? Check Out Voat, Its Creepy Little Brother

Think Reddit Is a Cesspool? Check Out Voat, Its Creepy Little Brother

Reddit banned multiple hate groups Wednesday, sparking a revolt. A large and vocal group of angry redditors is staging a misogynistic Nazi-themed strike against Reddit CEO Ellen Pao for blocking access to /r/fatpeoplehate, a forum for making fun of fat people. Upset over what they consider an act of censorship, users are flocking to less-popular, not-yet-banned pages — and ditching the site for an anarchic Reddit clone called Voat, which promises to let them hate fat people in peace.

The community has an aggressive digital libertarian slant and a bone to pick with Pao. But there are some dark stuff lurking beneath the surface.

Voat's front page.Source: Voat
Voat's front page.  Voat

Voat is a Switzerland-based social network with the anything-goes philosophy of 4chan and the look and feel of Reddit. Top-listed posts include "Welcome to all new users from the last round of censorship!" and "Transitioning from Reddit to VOAT." 

From the Voat thread "Holy Shit!":

We are sorry to see reddit change like this, in this way, in such an accelerated fashion. We would have never anticipated such events. We are not ready for such a huge influx of new users and haven't prepared for such a large and sudden increase either. But we welcome each and every person and are working hard to catch up in order to handle this. Welcome to Voat! We'll have things straightened out soon.

Voat is so inundated with new users and posts right now that load time is excruciatingly long. 

Voat's error page.Source: Voat
Voat's error page.  Voat

For those who can access it, the front page plays the role of soapbox to the angry masses. Several Voat posts praise free, open conversation and rail against power resting in the hands of the few. You'll also find links to stories about Bernie Sanders and medical marijuana.

Source: Voat
Source: Voat

"I think the difference is that Voat itself has no role in censorship, whereas on Reddit we're starting to see Reddit-sponsored censorship," wrote redditor braindeadunit in a thread comparing Reddit to Voat. "Reddit also has a problem of power hungry 'supermods' who slowly creep on to take control of hundreds of subs, which they then censor. Voat hopes to mitigate this."

Underneath the anti-Reddit rants of Voat's front page lies a steaming heap of porn. Unregulated discussion and unregulated smut go hand in hand. On Voat, some of Reddit's most controversial — and banned — NSFW communities are now thriving. 

Because the site is based in Switzerland, its rules about child porn are more relaxed.

Jailbait: In 2011, /r/jailbait, one of Reddit's most popular communities, was shut down. The subreddit featured suggestive photos of underage girls, most of which were ripped from their social media pages without permission. According to Gawker, pedophiles used the forum to connect and privately trade child pornography. 

Voat now has its own network of jailbait forums. And because the site is based in Switzerland, its rules about child porn are more relaxed. "Do not post anyone under the assumed age of 16 fully nude," the sidebar reads. "If they are younger please post them with some key areas covered. This is done to protect Voat legally from Swiss law."

Some redditors are uncomfortable with these groups, or "subverses," as they're called on Voat. "It's seriously messed up, and they should be taken down," one person wrote.

A screenshot of some older threads on Voat.Source: Voat
A screenshot of some older threads on Voat.  Voat

Creepshots: Another banned Reddit community is now an active group on Voat. On the late /r/creepshots, users shared real sexualized photos of women and girls taken in public without their permission. These included upskirt shots in malls and covert cellphone images of students in school. One high school substitute teacher in Georgia was fired in 2012 after allegedly uploading a photo he took of a girl in his class. 

/r/creepshots was shut down in 2012, but some spinoff groups are still active on Reddit.

Voat might already be over: Its servers weren't built to handle this flood of traffic, and it's near-impossible to access. The Daily Dot reports r/fatpeoplehate fans are now flocking to 8chan, a controversial community devoted to unregulated speech. On 8chan, the only rules about harassing fat people are "1. NO fat people allowed," and "2. NO fat sympathy whatsoever."

8chan, a spinoff of 4chan, was the central hub of 2014's controversial Gamergate movement. It also hosts a network of pedophiles and a number of forums that feature suggestive photos of children.

Voat's goal is to protect freedom of speech at all costs and to fight unelected leaders who supposedly abuse their privileges by making rules some people don't like. But some new Voat users aren't crusaders for global digital patriotism — they're opportunists capitalizing on the site's newfound popularity to share underage pornography. Reddit may be better off without them.