Redditors Are Combating Hate Speech On The Site With Some Well-Intended Trolling


Combating hate speech on the Internet is no easy task, and it's one made even more difficult by the rise in xenophobic, racist rhetoric. With that in mind, a group of Redditors have started trolling hate groups on the popular discussion website and co-opting the conversations — turning forums about white supremacy into dialogues about laundry best practices.

The Daily Beast reports a small group of Reddit power users have slowly but surely been taking control of previously harmful threads, as Reddit's rules permit new moderators to take ownership if the previous moderator of a subreddit has been inactive on the site as a whole for 60 days. Potential new moderators must then make a plea to administrators on r/redditrequest to adopt it, provided there's a plan for guidance in place.


That's exactly how Ianna Drew Urquhart, a 40-something living in Los Angeles, commandeered r/WhitePolitics and r/Whites and is now a moderator for each. Once a haven for white supremacists to spout their vitriol, the discourses now, rather humorously, focus on Swiss coffee and laundry, respectively.

"It's hilarious. What's not to like?" Urquhart asks The Daily Beast.

Thankfully, many users seem to be in on the joke as well. "Pro tip- it's also a good idea to separate white from red," one wrote in the laundry discussion.

In recent months, other social platforms like YouTube and Facebook have stepped up their efforts to prevent hate speech as well. While YouTube has expanded what it defines as hate speech, according to Variety, and redirected those searching for extremist videos, The Verge reports Facebook has strengthened its moderation team and created various partnerships to combat terrorist propaganda.

According to The Daily Beast, Urquhart and several others actually started their crusade against hate speech on Reddit several years ago, in part because they feel the privately owned company doesn't do enough to stop it themselves. The group's template was the neo-Nazi subreddit r/Stormfront, which was once banned by administrators for serving as a sister forum to the Ku Klux Klan-affiliated site of the same name. However, under the control of Urquhart and others, for the past five years r/Stormfront has been devoted to "firsthand reports of severe weather." 

Urquhart, who told The Daily Beast she identifies as queer, has also used her role as a Reddit vigilante to help curb hate speech that hits a bit closer to home. Late last year, she told Gay Star News about how she assumed control of two subreddits named for anti-LGBTQ slurs, which now consist of photos of everyday household objects that offer alternate, punny takes on the subreddits' URLs.

Crediting Reddit for helping her "stay sane," Urquhart recounts how she had to battle alt-right political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos for command of one of the subreddits: "I told the admins that I would use my powers for good and bring back the original meaning and make it about bundles of sticks."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Julia Tim.


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