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Reddit employee saves GamerGate subreddit, KotakuInAction, after founder closes it

‘I did this. Now I am undoing it’

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A Reddit employee stepped in to save KotakuInAction, the platform’s main pro-GamerGate subreddit, after its founder decided to shut it down Thursday night, calling the community a “viral cancer.”

KotakuInAction’s founder, a Redditor who goes by david-me, published a lengthy explainer on his decision to turn r/KotakuInAction private, boot out all moderators and, essentially, try to shut down the subreddit. The post details his reasoning for starting the subreddit back in 2014 when GamerGate — a reactionary, hateful campaign that targeted women and marginalized people in the games industry and manufactured a cover of being interested in “ethics in games journalism” — first started. The post provides additional context for deciding to take action against the community he founded.

Reddit is currently focused on ensuring the subreddit is able to properly function and run with a moderation team intact, Polygon has learned, and the community team is investigating the situation further to determine next steps. A Reddit administrator responded to the incident within the hour after the subreddit was first taken offline, and the team is now working to ensure everything is restored. KotakuInAction moderators are currently praising the employee, whose name is being kept private by moderators out of fear of retaliation, for keeping the subreddit active when critics have continuously asked for its closure in the past.

Reddit’s moderation guidelines state that administrators may step in to take control of a community in certain situations — including a moderator abandoning “a thriving community.” The guidelines state:

Reddit may, at its discretion, intervene to take control of a community when it believes it in the best interest of the community or the website. This should happen rarely (e.g., a top moderator abandons a thriving community), but when it does, our goal is to keep the platform alive and vibrant, as well as to ensure your community can reach people interested in that community.

Reddit did not address david-me’s reasoning for taking down KotakuInAction, which addresses concerns over hateful behavior from community members. His post reads:

KiA is one of the many cancerous growths that have infiltrated reddit. The internet. The world. I did this. Now I am undoing it. This abomination should have always been aborted.

So in this moment with years of contemplation, I am Stopping it. I’m closing shop and I can’t allow anyone to exploit my handicap. I’ve watched and read every day. Every single day. The mods are good at what they do, but they are moderating over a sub that should not exist. The users have created content that should not be. Topics that do not require debate. And often times molded by outside forces.

David-me further explains that KotakuInAction helped birth a new wave of “viral cancer” subreddits, including The_Donald, currently one of Reddit’s most controversial subreddits. David-me states that compared to The_Donald, he’s “scratching an itch, yet you are a viral cancer that is destroying the minds of millions of Reddit users each day.”

“And they allow it,” david-me wrote. “They, in fact, have to. Conflict breeds users and drives viewer counts, driving advertisers and required profits. After all, who would invest in a company that loses money? Reddit is only a small problem, but I’ll end it here. Those with power use it to create a stronger hold on that power. Human nature to be #1.”

KotakuInAction’s moderators responded to the incident on the subreddit, informing their more than 96,000 members on what happened. They praised Reddit’s administration team for taking swift action, and boasted in a thread about some Reddit administrators’ commitment to keeping the subreddit active, even when Reddit has faced numerous calls from critics to remove the subreddit entirely.

“As much as we may get copypasted responses to a lot of our issues sent by admin-mail, when it comes down to it there are some amazing admins on the team who help out regardless of what they may or may not think of us here,” one moderator wrote.

Still, KotakuInAction’s content has stirred questions about the subreddit’s existence in the past. In 2015, members used threatening, violent language against former Reddit CEO, Ellen Pao, after she implemented harsher policy rules and community guidelines around harassment. Those threats can be seen in a deleted thread that has since been archived. Other subreddits, including HateSubredditoftheDay and organizations like Buzzfeed have also launched investigations into the subreddit’s inner workings to point out disturbing posts and comments.

KotakuInAction often toes the line between questionable phrasing and actual hate speech, much like members in The_Donald often do. But questions about Reddit’s commitment to creating non-toxic spaces has come into question recently.

The drama surrounding KotakuInAction, and Reddit’s response to the situation, comes just days after Steve Huffman, the company’s CEO, reportedly spoke to a Reddit member privately through a series of direct messages about hate speech on the platform. Huffman told this Reddit user that hate speech is “difficult to define,” adding that Reddit employees aren’t “thought police,” according to The Huffington Post. Huffman added that a hate speech ban is, “impossible to enforce consistently,” and “it’s a nearly impossible precedent to uphold.”

David-me specifically called out hateful comments in his post, claiming that it’s just as prevalent as ever.

“We are better than this,” david-me said. “I should have been better than this. Just look at the comment history of any users history. The hate is spread by very few, but very often. Overwhelmingly so.”

Other KotakuInAction members disagree, with many pointing out that if the subreddit was truly hateful, Reddit would have taken it down along with other subreddits, including r/incels. Polygon asked Reddit for further comment on its investigation into the subreddit’s actions, but the company declined to offer a statement.

Polygon has reached out to david-me for more information.

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